The Exe Hammer Challenge 2019 lived up to its name as 68 participants descended upon Topsham on Sunday, September 22 to compete in the annual paddleboard event.
Organised and run by Edge Watersports, the race consisted of a 10km course, which was made even more challenging by the weather.
Participants contended with strong headwinds, choppy water and treacherous downpours.
Nevertheless, there was an abundance of support from participants and the local community who came down to watch.
World champion kitesurfer, Steph Bridge, who will be heading up the much-anticipated new watersports centre, Sideshore, in Exmouth next year, gave a clear and motivating briefing at the start of the race.
From timings to safety procedures, and with support from the Harbour Master, Steph and her team persevered and helped participants to stay on course from Topsham Quay all the way to Exmouth seafront.
Cheating the Southerly wind along the Powderham and Starcross shoreline before making a dash out of the Estuary and along Exmouth seafront is just a taster of the hurdles the 68 participants faced.
The race came to a poignant close by the designated Sideshore site, which is currently under construction by the event’s sponsor Grenadier, as participants uttered ‘never again’ before celebrating their defeat by tucking into fish and chips supplied by supporter Rockfish, beer from Hanlons Brewery, and some much-needed sunshine.
Steph said:“The Exe Hammer Challenge 2019 was once again a huge success. With over 60 participants competing in the race, it was great to see such strength, determination, and real teamwork evident on the day, despite the weather. Exmouth and Topsham are outstanding locations for watersports and we were delighted to see so many people take part. Here’s to next year!”
Last year’s winner Ryan James was equally impressive, despite the weather, and finished in one hour, 18 minutes and 47 seconds.
By comparison, Ryan’s time was around one hour last year, showing just how fierce the course was on Sunday.
Next to cross the finish line was Chris Rashley only seven minutes later. Five minutes after that, Gary Charles arrived to qualify for third place.
Next to finish was the first woman, Marie Buchanan, whose inspirational performance should be celebrated, as she’d already paddled the whole course prior to the race.
In the most-popular Round Nosed Board class, there was a tremendously close finish between Nick Tate and Adam Barnett, reversing last year’s result. Andy Rochester was only a few seconds later in third place.
First in the Women’s Round Nosed Board class was Rachel Dobrijevic, with Katie Ward and Claire Sargent completing the podium.
Special mention must be made to Tomasz Stefanski who perhaps embodied the spirit of the challenge and day as the final finisher in three hours, 23 minutes and 50 seconds. He crossed the line with a big grin and sense of pride on his face and really had earned his food and beer.
The prize-giving on the beach was well attended and thankfully the weather held. Next year promises to be even better as Sideshore Watersports centre will be open to provide a superb base.
The Exe Hammer Challenge was sponsored by Grenadier, Rockfish, Hanlons Brewery, Naish, ion, Pro Limit, and The Beach House Exmouth.