Mother Nature's stormy threats on Friday turned out to be empty for Saturday's second Shem Creek SUP Shootout, the state's largest stand-up paddleboarding race.
While organizers expected about 80 to race, 64 hearty souls from as far away as Illinois and New Jersey paddled out of Mount Pleasant's Shem Creek, which has become a hub of local paddleboarding in recent years.
"Anytime you put on an event, you can dot every 'i' and cross every 't' but at some point you have to surrender to Mother Nature," said Dave Clifford, owner of Charleston Watersport Outfitters, which put on the event. "It (weather forecasts) probably hurt registration, but that's just the way it is."
Still, the event grew by 23 participants over last year's inaugural event. Among those growth numbers were more women, 15 in all.
Friends Michelle Crabtree, 37, of Sullivan's Island and Amy Zonarich, 39, of West Ashley, participated in the three-mile "recreation race." While the wind coming out of the creek was a challenge, it was low tide's shallow waters that presented the biggest obstacle on Saturday, especially around Crab Bank.
"I wiped out once because my paddle hit the sand and threw me off," said Crabtree, adding that the wake from a passing ship also presented a challenge.
The event's elite division, which entailed traversing an 8.5-mile course from the creek to Patriot's Point, past Crab Bank, to the Pitt Street Bridge and to the creek, was won by Chris Hill, 43, of Surf City, N.C., in one hour, 11 minutes and 49 seconds. The women's division was won by Kim Sutton, 28, of Wilmington, N.C., in 1 hour, 26 minutes, 28 seconds.
Hill, a brick mason who recently opened Ohana Paddle Sports in Surf City, N.C., is a rising star on the national paddleboarding scene and offered some perspective on the sport.
Florida and North Carolina have emerged as the top paddleboarding states in the Southeast. Hill describes South Carolina as still being in its infancy, but that the Shem Creek Shootout is helping.
"I like it here because it's challenging and almost always windy," said Hill.
Clifford said the event will continue to evolve.
"This race is another stepping stone for the sport locally. Our local community has grown by five to six times from last year," said Clifford, noting that the Red's Ice House and Shem Creek venue is ideal. "It (the race) will be even bigger and better next year."
This weekend's event wraps up 9 a.m.-noon today with a paddleboarding demonstration at Station 30 on Sullivan's Island.