The dawn breaks slightly damp on racing day at the 9th version of the Salt Life Mongoose Cup in Dana Point Harbor. Standing peacefully on the moist sand at Baby Beach is the 79 year-old wonderman-child this event is named after and the legend everyone has come to see. But Mickey The Mongoose Munoz has a tear in his eye and that wily grin is missing from his face because the first order of the day is a somber one. We are all gathered to honor and say goodbye to one of our sea sisters. Sophia Bartlow was taken from our happy tribe far too soon but her mom Jericho and family are here to help us get through what they have been processing so painfully yet lovingly.
Mickey, his wife Peggy and Jericho climb onto an extra large sup and stroke out into a gathering swarm of watercraft to perform what they intend to be the final waterborne tribute to Sophia. As sheets of salt water are released skyward from blades of paddles, so is the sadness from the hearts and faces of all those in attendance. Now it’s time to have some fun just like Sophia would want us to!
“That is the longest mile I have ever paddled”, says one competitor after he hurls his limp and gasping body across the finish line of the One Mile Time Trial.
It’s obvious that competing against yourself can be the harshest competition. It gets really intense when the guy that left the timer’s gate a minute behind you is starting to catch up. Not only do you want to beat the clock but when you glance back and see someone a decade younger crawling up your tail, the frail ego goes into overdrive and fuels the finish line push of your life!
Event Director Barrett Tester is a veteran of staging watersports events. He consistently uses the same core crack team that know and appreciate his penchant for perfection. Barrett has once again come up with a winning mix of short and long courses that will test every ability level and ensure a lot of fun on and off the water. The demo and display area is like a carnival, bright and alive with all things related to fun on the water.
Mike Eisert has his kids from The Paddle Academy standing right at the start line of the Sprint Races, taking mental notes like good little students do. Superstar Noa Hopper streaks by and all eyes are focused on him and every detail about how he shaves time off the clock before he even hits the water.
Soaking up all this good intel is Erin Fitzpatrick, a visitor all the way from Wrightsville Beach on the East Coast. Borrowing boards and paddles all day, she is part of a new wave of kids that are racing at home and looking out West for inspiration and technique, fully supported by her parents Kelly and Francine. She is embraced by the local kids, invited back to train with them and has the thrill of her short lifetime when she wins a new Hobie board and gets it signed by Mickey himself.
The call goes out for the Sport of Kings races and Barrett’s team goes into high gear to divide up the heats so that there isn’t a massive traffic jam at one of the buoys.
The course is short, close to shore and tight – just what the crowd on the beach loves.
In the young women’s division, 2 local girls are used to banging rails in the turns and seeing each other on the winner’s podium. Lexi Alston and Jade Howson fully test each other again but Jade has an extra gear this day and roars to the shore and runs to the finish line with a smile. She immediately turns around and cheers on Lexi and then they both turn to greet each and every one of their fellow racers.
That’s called sportswomanship.
I don’t know if you can teach that, I think it comes from deep down inside somewhere. Like where it hurts when we lose someone like Sophia and it makes a Mongoose cry. – Glenn Dubock