When a single event features a beach run, a paddleboard race and a crab crawl, it tends to attract a diverse collection of competitors.
Such was the case with the Second Annual Pier to Pier Run/Walk, Crab Crawl and SUP Race on June 7.
Event organizers were rewarded for their decision to move the event from May to June, as race day saw sunny skies, pleasant temperatures and a light sea breeze.
“Last year [the weather]was miserable,” said race director Bobby Brandon. “This year is much better.”
The promise of better weather and the addition of the standup paddleboard race led to more than twice as many participants in 2014 as in 2013, a trend that Brandon hopes will continue in future years.
“First year we had 80 people, this year we had 202, so next year maybe we’ll get 300 or 350 and it will just grow and grow and grow,” he said.
Around 8 a.m., the paddleboarders entered the water at Johnnie Mercer’s Pier and raced to Crystal Pier, battling choppy seas and a stiff current. The more ambitious competitors had the option to turn the race into a biathlon by leaving their boards at Crystal Pier and running back to Johnnie Mercer’s. One of those competitors was Patty Davis.
“I fell in nine times,” said Davis, who still managed to complete her first biathlon with a final time of 51:03. Davis said her friends talked her into doing the biathlon the night before the race.
Around 8:15 a.m., the children lined up on the beach in their best crab crawl stances. Cheered on by their families, they crawled about 40 yards through the sand to the finish line, where they each received a medal and a toy crab.
Shawnee Huss watched her sons Cameron and Daniel crawl down the beach while her husband prepared to start the 5k beach run. Her Southern California family came to North Carolina so that she could compete in the May 31Raleigh Ironman. The best part of the Pier to Pier event, she said, was seeing her entire family participate.
“Our kids always do the events that we do,” Huss said. “[Wrightsville Beach] is a beautiful place, and this just gets everybody involved.”
At 8:30 a.m., the runners lined up beneath Johnnie Mercer’s Pier to begin the 5k beach run, the course directing them to Crystal Pier and back. Toni Kirby raced alongside her 11-year-old son, Evan. Her other son, Yates, cheered them on, having just finished the crab crawl.
“This is [Evan’s] second 5k. And it was quite nice that they did the crab crawl for the little guys,” Kirby said.
Many Pier to Pier participants entered the event for a chance to enjoy some friendly competition to benefit a good cause, as all proceeds from the race went to the Wrightsville Beach Foundation.
As James Taylor crossed the finish line in the 5k, though, he was celebrating a more personal goal.
“[Last fall] I was going to work, and I parked in a parking deck and I was about ready to pass out walking from the parking deck to the building so I decided to start walking every day,” Taylor said. “I’ve lost 11 pounds in the process and I’m going to keep going. This race today was to sort of prove that I could do it. It wasn’t the fastest, but I did it.”
Regardless of their reasons for entering the race, most of the participants seemed to share a similar sentiment about the event.
“It’s fun,” Shawnee Huss said.