ONLINE UPDATE: Cold Stroke Classic lives up to its name

by Matt Corpening
Saturday, January 18, 2014

Nearly 90 racers in nine standup paddleboarding categories departed from Wrightsville Beach across the street from the Blockade Runner Beach Resort, paddling north in Banks Channel at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 18.

Recreational racers made one trip around Harbor Island while elite racers made two.

April Zilg, 27, of Wrightsville Beach, who laid down in exhaustion after crossing the finish line and promptly sprang back up with a renewed energy, was the fastest among the elite women with a time of 1:42:13.

“Lees Cut was the toughest part,” Zilg said. “You were against the wind the entire time. When you’re against the wind, you have to give it your all just to hold your position. Then when there is a lull in the wind, you sprint as hard as you can.”

Zilg’s training has just begun for the Carolina Cup and a host of other events.

“We have a bunch of really good local races, and a lot of people from here travel to Maryland and Florida and to the Battle of the Paddle in California,” Zilg said.

An awards banquet followed the race where patrons took refuge from the cold with a coffee, a Natty Greene’s beer or some hot chili.

Winners, including Jeremy Whitted in the elite men’s 14’, Will Lathan in the elite men’s 12’6”, Eric Kopka in the recreational men’s 12’6” and under, Neil Macindoe in the recreational men’s 14’, Chris Hill in the prone unlimited and James Smith in the surfski unlimited had the chance to stand atop the tiered podium in victory.

Anna Blackburn, 14, won both the recreational kid’s and recreational women’s 12’6” and under categories.

“I’ve been racing for about a year now, I’m loving it. I ride a Naish 12’6” which is the fastest board out right now. I was faster than I thought I was going to be today so I’m very proud of myself,” Blackburn said.

Jeoffrey Nathan, event organizer and co-founder of Coastal Urge said he hoped every racer took home a good experience.

“When the wind’s gusting up to 25 miles per hour and it’s freezing with the wind chill, I think it’s just a major accomplishment for novice and experienced paddlers,” Nathan said. 

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