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Thursday, July 26, 2012

2nd Annual Waterman Eco-Challenge Promotes Safety

“We had our hands full, but the conditions added to the energy of the day.” ~ Brian Guadagno, Senior Ocean Lifeguard Captain
By Tracey C. O'Neill  for Progressive Charlestown

2012 Waterman Eco-Challenge Prone Paddleboarders
(photo by Tracey C. O'Neill)
Ocean and sun safety awareness were on the agenda as the 2nd Annual Waterman Eco-Challenge kicked off on Narragansett Town Beach on Saturday.

An Eco-friendly 3-mile paddle, The Challenge, organized by Narragansett Parks & Recreation and Narragansett Surf Rescue, was sponsored by WaveJet and Raw Elements, eco-friendly water, surf and sun-safe businesses with local ties.  The start, just before noon was held despite conditions more conducive to a traditional surf contest.  

Hosted by Garrett McNamara of Team Wavejet , the 3-mile paddle race drew paddle boarders of all ages and skill levels. A group of 31 swell-friendly competitors, choosing either prone boards or the stand-up variety, took to the sea just before noontime in conditions more conducive to a traditional surf competition.
Team Wavejet and McNamara, who recently took the surfing world by storm conquering a 78 ft. mammoth wave off the coast of Portugal, brought the WaveJet Propulsion system to the Narragansett Surf Rescue team last year for testing.

Brian Guadagno, Senior Lifeguard Captain and CEO of Raw Elements commended his team in Q&A earlier this week for TraceyC_online.

Q: This is the second time you’ve put on the event. The turnout on the beach was pretty stellar. What were your numbers for the event compared to last year?

A: We had 42 last year. Some of the participants got a look at the surf on Saturday and opted not to go out. From a safety perspective - ocean safety - we welcome those who are aware of their limitations and make the right decision, taking a responsible approach. The team did an awesome job. From a safety perspective looking just at the event, we had 31 people in the water, all at different skill levels.  . Had inexperienced people gone out, the event would have had a completely different dynamic.

Q: You had many lifeguards on the beach, participating in the challenge. Some were former employees and some took the day off to show their support for the eco-friendly event. How did it feel to see everyone turn out?

A: It was just awesome. I can’t even begin to tell you or express the magnitude of the overwhelming support. From the team, the Town, the marketing involved to the volunteers - it really was a lot of work to put the event together. The dedication of the volunteers was outstanding. The Town of Narragansett lent us a lot of support.

Q: The team had their work cut out for them with the surf conditions. There were quite a few extractions in addition to the event.

A: The Team put forth an awesome effort pulling people out of the water. There were at least a dozen operations that day. One of them had up to ten victims.

Q: Garrett McNamara and Wavejet sponsored the event. Was the team able to use the Wavejet technology?

A: Four Wavejet boards were in use for the event itself. [They] were part of the team. We had a lot of help. The Coast Guard was out there, the Narragansett Police boat, Brian Lemme on his personal Ski, Joe Vingi, a Providence Firefighter. It was a huge volunteer turnout.

Q: Considering everything going on at the beach, the event ran smoothly and Narragansett Surf Rescue appeared to have everything under control.

A: The team works really well as a unit. We have an extremely wide range of guards in age and skill level. Some are very talented youth swimmers as young as 16 and the team age ranges to our oldest member in the mid-40’s. There is an unbelievable amount of training and maturity needed to be an ocean lifeguard. We train really hard and we prepare really hard.

Q: In addition to all of the work you had getting the ocean safety aspect of the event in place, you added a bit more stress and management to the mix by sponsoring the event through your company, Raw Elements.

A: The event itself is all about ocean and sun safety. Raw Elements is geared towards both. Our sunscreen product line is mineral based and is good for water use. It bonds to the skin better than synthetic chemical products. There is no water in the formula and the stick can tuck into a pair of board shorts - be applied right in the water. The mineral products are better for you and less harmful to aquatic features and reefs.

Q: You’ve added more vendors this year and grown the support base.

A: The event really did get a lot of attention - media and local support. We had Narrow River Kayaks on hand, Warm Winds, Food for Thought, equipment donations. It was unbelievable - the volunteer commitment and effort.

Q: As a local resident, I can’t tell you how impressed I was at the cohesive nature of the Narragansett Surf Rescue team. The team stepped up, manning sand and surf as well as the event.

A: When I met with them for 7:00 am roll call, the conditions were building. I said, “This is it. This is what we work hard and train for.” I watched them and every team member from 16 year-old kid to veteran was pumped up.   I told them, “This is the time for you to shine.”

Promoting sound ocean and sun safety in an eco-friendly environment is part of the daily routine for sponsors and organizers of the Waterman Eco-Challenge.

“We work in the sun and on the water all day,” said Guadagno. “It’s great to be able to put on an event that supports what we do.”