By Taylor Doss
With steady winds and an overcast sky, the weather challenged the paddleboarders from across the southeast assembled for with plans of having their names added to the Wrightsville Beach Biathlon trophy.
It was Jeremy Whitted, from Charleston, S.C., who secured his fourth consecutive victory in the solo men’s division of the race that pairs a 4.5-mile paddleboard race with a 4-mile beach run. The win didn’t come easy for Whitted, who faced a challenge from racers from Capitol SUP, a stand-up paddle board team from Annapolis, Md. Five members of Capitol SUP made the 8-hour drive from Annapolis to the Blockade Runner Beach Resort to attend the biathlon for the first time.
Capital SUP’s Fielding Pagel was in close pursuit, breaking into sprint to close the gap with Whitted on the final stretch of the beach run, but the veteran champion was able to keep pace to earn a comfortable win.
Whitted said the windy, chilly conditions made the race a challenge.
“Sometimes it sucks, the cold, but you know you are gonna get warmed up racing, and you get over it pretty quick,” he said.
In the women’s solo division Laura Drossner, another Capitol SUP member, took first place. The event was her first paddleboard race and a success. Drossner is an English teacher and spends her free time running, swimming, biking, and now paddle boarding competitively.
“I live on the water and love the SUP community,” she said.
Jack Ballard was the youngest member of Capitol SUP competing battling through the wind on the paddleboard leg before running the beach leg barefoot, earning some blisters and cuts to take back to Maryland.
“The weather wasn’t any worse than back home, but I did have to work pretty hard to fight the wind,” Ballard said.
Capitol SUP plans to be represented in Wrightsville Beach for the Carolina Cup in April, as Pagel said the team is looking to attend several local paddleboard events.
“The race is just another excuse to come to Wrightsville,” Pagel said. “The 6 or 8-hour ride isn’t much for the experience we get here.”