Paddleboard event draws more than 100

Posted on 21 July 2011 by LeslieM

By Gary Curreri 

Rebekah Escuage asks where the finish is for the standup paddleboard event at recent Chick-fil-A Ocean Series on Pompano Beach. Photo by Gary Curreri

Pompano Beach Piranhas head swim coach Jesse Vassallo is hoping to build a strong swim program in the city.

If a recent fundraising event at the beach is any indication, he could be well on his way. A total of 135 competitors recently participated in a Chick-fil-A Ocean Series on Pompano Beach.

The Chick-fil-A Ocean Series was presented by the Pompano Piranhas and featured a one-mile ocean swim, a 500-meter kids swim and a half-mile stand-up paddleboard race. The top three finishers in each event won Cow trophies and medals. There were also goodie bags and door prizes provided, as well as a Chick-fil-A breakfast.

“I am really excited about being here,” said Vassallo, who took over head coaching duties a month ago after spending the previous two years at Ft. Lauderdale Aquatics. He called the Chick-fil-A event “a tremendous success.”

Vassallo, who turns 50 next month, hopes to continue to grow the swim team in Pompano Beach, which is in just its second year as a United States Swim program. It had previously enjoyed success in the South Florida Recreational Swim League.

“We started a month ago with 45 swimmers and we now have 66,” Vassallo said. “We are trying to run the most professional swim team in the area …We have recreational levels for kids who just want to lose weight or have fun. We also want to be very competitive. You can’t have one without the other.”

“I have my goals,” Vassallo added. “The Pompano Piranhas is a small team that came from the rec league maybe three years ago so it is actually a new team in the U.S. Swimming environment. First, I want this to be a solid team so we have to grow in numbers.”

Julia Schulte, 14, the first female finisher in the standup paddleboard event at the competition who finished fourth overall, likes the direction the Piranhas are taking. She has been a member of the swim program for the past six years.

“It is such a black-and-white difference (with the competition),” said Schulte, who is also a junior lifeguard with Pompano. “With (the recreation swim league), I would win the heats like they were nothing and, here, I get my butt kicked and come in dead last. It is just a whole other world. It is like you go into the Twilight Zone and you feel like you are in a whole different world.”

Piranhas’ teammate Rebekah Escuage, 17, also from Pompano Beach, agreed that the competition is now stiffer.

“Rec (swimming) was a lot of fun, but this is a higher level of competition,” Escuage said. “It is nice to see how it is going to be by competing at such a high level, even with people who are going to the Olympics. It is really different.”

“That was a beginner type thing, but when we switched here it was like a whole different world of competition and people who can beat you,” Escuage added. “Training got a lot harder, but it was more worth it and it was something to strive for.”

1 Comments For This Post

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