The Cough-town Showdown

Beautiful and historic Charleston again played host to a fantastic paddle sports event this past weekend. The 4th edition of the Chucktown Showdown would take us along the famous Charleston Battery, around Shutes Folly and into the heart of Charleston Harbor before returning to the start/finish line at Brittle Bank Park 9 miles later.
Although largely marketed as a SUP race, the race has seen increasing surfski participation despite a busy weekend of races else where. This year saw 16 surfski paddlers tackle the 9 mile Harbor Course. Even before the gun went off, there was plenty of banter in the starting area. Mark Volkmann debuted his new carbon Epic V14 GT and was sure to challenge for a medal in his speedy new ski. Flavio Costa was visiting from North Florida and was a bit of a dark horse, but like me, was suffering from a summer cold. Between us, we sniffed and coughed our way to the start line with the help of some great drug store medication.

Race favorite, Eric Mims knew of his sickened competitors and as the flag dropped the pace was thankfully relatively mild as the lead group of Mims, myself, Volkmann and Costa dropped in behind every boat and fixed object to get a little relief against the incoming tide. Upon reaching the Battery wall, the rebounding waves started to slow the pace a little and Volkmann had to drop to the back of the group before we rounded the Battery and headed across sloppy conditions out to Shutes Folly Island.


Mark Volkmann, Waylon Willis and Kata Dismukes establishing positon

Mims rounded the top of Shutes Folly with a little lead as we turned downwind and started surfing towards the 150ft cell tower in the center of the harbor. On this downwind leg Costa started his attack to close the gap on Mims leaving me to just keep my pace controlled and stress free for my already suffering aerobic system.

After rounding the cell tower, it was another slog thru sloppy and difficult conditions before reaching the leeward side of the Battery and relative protection from the conditions. Costa continued to close the gap to Mims and I watched the battle unfold in front of me. Mims and Costa choose a line in the middle of the river while I took a more sheltered line closer to the marina in an effort to minimize my looses.


Mims leads Hipgrave shortly after the start.

By the time we reached the Ashley Bridge, Costa was neck and neck with Mims as the final stages of the race unfolded. As they rounded the last buoy, I had a ring side seat to watch the mad sprint for the finish unfold, with Mims coming from behind to take the win by a small margin. I rolled comfortably in for third and then watched Richard Carter lead Mark Volkmann in to the last buoy. I was so proud of Richard who has been working hard on his technical skills, only to watch his lead evaporate as he inexplicity fell out of his ski in the flat water around the turn, allowing Volkmann to claim 4th.

Behind us, the difficult and sloppy conditions had shattered the field apart with folks rolling across the line for the next 90 minutes. The race had also created additional drama especially to the women’s race favorite, Kata Dismukes who just a mile from the start had hit a submerged object and broken off her rudder. In disbelief, she paddled back to the start with her husband where they swapped out the rudder and then re-started, eventually completing the race course but obviously massively disappointed about how the race had evolved for them.


Winners from left: Flavio Costa, Eric Mims, Chris Hipgrave

Fun race and a great crew of surfski folks makes Charleston a great destination. Looking forward to heading back for more.