Justin Schaay Sets New Watertribe SUP Record

Justin Schaay pushing towards the finish 

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Florida - The WaterTribe Everglades Challenge is no joke. It's a serious adventure race from Tampa Bay to Key Largo, spanning 300 miles and open to any water craftsmen and women who think they're up to it. Last year Shane Perrin set the bar by being the first stand up paddler to finish, and this year, amidst the sailboards, hobbie TI's, kayaks and canoes, a stand up paddler from South Africa named Justin Schaay finished the race in a new record time of 4 days, 20 hours and 41 minutes. While his win is incredibly impressive in its own right, the fact that he was racing to raise funds and awareness for Surfers Healing just makes it that much more special. In addition to this good cause, he also dedicated the race to his sister Nikki - find out why below. 


Supconnect: 300 miles is an intimidating distance! Can you tell us about how you prepared for the Watertribe Everglades Challenge? 

Justin Schaay: Ja, I was hoping this was not going to be on your list. [Ha Ha, busted] It’s a long way: I had no idea whether or not I could make this distance as it’s hard to train for 300 miles without having done any long distances before. In fact my longest training paddle was 14 1/2 miles, I am a little embarrassed to admit this. I did however try to do regular paddles even if they were short distances 3-6 miles to get used to my equipment. It was a cold wet winter too so that did not help. I generally have trouble sitting still at a desk so I try to stay active and did a little biking and swam some lengths in the local pool once a week. The biggest challenge is getting your mind ready. I spent a lot of time looking at the Watertribe forum for information and tips about the race. Shane Perrin was amazing and offered me some great advise and was super helpful.

Supconnect: What were conditions like during the race and how was the vibe between competitors on different craft?



Overall: I think I got really lucky with the conditions as the previous year they had some really stormy weather to start with. Luckily I made it to the finish before a frontal system roared through.

Wind: We had some sea breezes that kicked in early afternoon and made for some tough side-on conditions. I would try head inshore for those as it was a challenge to hold my course with such a long board.

Tides: The tides were a big challenge as it was a new moon and on the second day I really struggled with this. When heading to CP2 [check point] Chokoloskee just after dark it was an uphill battle as it had been for much of the day. I gave up at one stage and tied off to a marker and waited it out. Downside of that was once you stopped moving the mosquitos had a feast. Then on arriving at CP2 it was dead low and the landing was knee deep mud for a 50 yard haul. Day 2 was a day to forget.



Watertribers: They are an amazing group of adventures from all walks of life and really made first timers feel comfortable and welcome. It’s not so much a race as it is a combined effort to get to the finish and an expedition for most. Even those that took the racing seriously and between different craft they would happily offer advice. It was great to bump into folks along the way and hear their stories. I think some of the happiest participants were those who timed it to perfection and arrived just in time for the prize giving and feast on the last day.

Supconnect: What equipment did you use?



Justin Schaay: If I had to pick one piece of gear that made a huge difference it would be my King’s Paddle Sports Unlimited SUP it was amazing super stable yet fast and easy to handle even in some tough conditions.

Clothes: Vapor Apparel and Patagonia

Board: King’s Paddle Sports - Unlimited SUP

Paddle: Werner Bent shaft

Dry Bags: Watershed

Shoes: Keen water shoes and boots


Watertribe has a very detailed list of required gear, mainly safety related but very thorough. Spot for tracking and a PLB [personal locator beacon] as back up, waterproof charts, GPS, sleep system, dry clothes, wet weather gear etc.

Supconnect: Would you do it again?



Justin Schaay: I would love to do the race again although I must say I was very jealous of the boats and kayaks that had sails. I may want to have one of those next time especially after paddling hard then seeing them glide by leisurely once the wind picked up.

Supconnect: Can you tell us about your affiliation with Surfer's Healing and dedication to your sister? 



Justin Schaay: When I decided to give this a try I wanted to not only do it to challenge myself but also wanted to raise awareness for Surfers Healing and raise funds for them. I have a Fundly site setup for that and have raised about $2470 so far my goal is to get to$3000. I volunteered at the Surfers Healing Folly Beach event last year and I loved seeing the kids with Autism and their families let loose and enjoy the healing powers of the ocean. I also dedicated this win to my sister who I found out two weeks before the start has stage 4 breast cancer. Wishing her well as she faces a far greater challenge than I could ever imagine. This ones for you Nik.



Last modified onTuesday, 24 March 2015 12:24

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