Ryan Oliver Repeats as Long-Course Standup Champ in LBI Paddle Classic

Jul 19, 2017
Photo by: Grant Kelly

When the top-three guys in the Men’s 14-foot Standup division made the turn at the halfway point of the Long Beach Island Paddle Classic on Saturday, July 15, Ryan Oliver was in third place and knew something had to change.

“This is a hard race for me, for some reason,” said the 43-year-old from Toms River, who won the 4-mile, long-course race last summer. “I don’t know what it is, but it’s just not an easy race for me. And today, the pace was really fast. I was third at the halfway mark, but I made up ground on the way back out to the island.”

The leader at the halfway point, Mike Fithian, seemed to fade a bit on his stroke as the lead pack headed to the north side of High Island, off to the northwest of Bayview Park in Long Beach Township where the race started and finished. And as his stroke faded slightly, Oliver maintained his pace. About halfway to High Island, Oliver passed Fithian for good, en route to victory with a time of 28 minutes, 18 seconds.

Fithian arrived at Bayview Park’s bayside beach 11 seconds later, followed closely by Greg Errion, who completed the course in 28:35.

“I had a pretty good gap on Mike as we came around the south side of the island and headed back to shore,” said Oliver, who competes in about 10 paddle events per year. “I just wanted to stay smooth on my strokes and keep a good rhythm. It felt like they were right there the whole way, but I looked back a couple of times and they weren’t really that close. I felt great coming in and it was just a matter of maintaining a smooth stroke.”

Indeed, the pace near the front was fast, as fourth-place finisher Michael Jacobus came in at 28:38, followed in fifth by Matt Kalwinsky in 28:42 and Ed O’Kinsky in sixth with a time of 28:46.

In all, nearly 60 paddlers took part in the Classic, hosted by South End Surf N’ Paddle as a fundraiser to benefit Alliance for a Living Ocean.

“We had a good turnout and raised a little bit of money to help out ALO, and that’s all it’s really about,” said race director Ken Gallant. “Any day we can get people out to paddle and help ALO is a good day. It was awesome.”

For the short course of roughly 2 miles, the first one to cross the finish line was the other half of the Oliver husband-and-wife tandem, Jackie Oliver, who clocked 17 minutes even, taking the top spot on a 14-foot standup board 11 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher, Devon Kuser. Michelle Aromando, competing on a 12-foot, 6-inch standup, was third overall in 17:25.

“I’ve raced four times this summer, so far,” said Jackie Oliver. “I used to just tag along with my husband for these races, but I’m starting to do more of them. We try to make it a family thing now. All I wanted to do was go as hard as I could and finish well.”

Meanwhile, 12-year-old Mikayla Higgins, possibly the youngest competitor in the Classic, was most interested in getting the experience of racing on a standup. In her first competitive race, she was the first finisher in the Under-14 division for the short course, with a time of 23:35.

“I just wanted to try it, to see how it would be,” she said. “I usually paddle with my Uncle Dan and Aunt Joanne. I’ve been paddling for a couple of years, but this was my first time racing on a board. It was fun.”

In other long-course races, Karl Miran was the top finisher in the Men’s 12-foot-6, 35-and-over division with a time of 42:23, while Carly Scallon was the winner in the Women’s 12-foot-6, 35-and-over division in 32:51, followed by Claire Condie and Kate McBride. In the 35-and-over Standup Surfboard division, Chris LaRocca was first with a time of 38:38, followed by Bob Gilpin.

For the 35-and-over, 14-foot Standup women’s division, Lynda Cubelo took the first spot in 33:17, followed by Andrea Kahikina and Tonia Williamson. And in the 12-foot-6, Men’s 14-34 division, Todd Page was the top finisher in 36:20, while Nolan Vanderslice was first across the line, at 39:25, for the Men’s Under-14 division.

For the long-course Men’s 35-and-over prone division, Bob Highley was the winner in 31:02, followed by Zeke Hill, while Shawn O’Mara was the top finisher, in 35:01, for the Men’s 14-34 prone division.

In the rest of the short-course races, Mike Mahedy (21:36) was the first finisher for the 35-and-over, 12-foot-6 SUP division, while William Pyne (18:21) and Lawrence Goldstein (20:55) were the top-two finishers in the 35-and-over, 14-foot SUP division, and Sophie Clymer (20:19) and Kelly Kappler (22:50) were the top two in the Women’s 14-34 SUP Surfboard division.

For the Men’s 14-34, 14-foot SUP division, the top-two spots went to Kuser and Kristian Mulholland (29:37), while the top-three positions in the 35-and-over Women’s 12-foot-6 SUP division went to Aromando, Dawn Jacobus (20:46) and Marsha Worthington (20:56), and the Men’s 35-and-over Surfboard division was won by Jon Coen (19:10), followed by Kent Weston.

For the 14-34 Women’s 12-foot-6 SUP division, Valerie Giacobbe (19:46) finished first ahead of Ellie McGlynn, while the 35-and-over Women’s Standup Surfboard division’s top-three finishers were Kimberly Elton (25:18), Dani Padovano and Lori Distelcamp. The Men’s 14-34, 12-foot-6 SUP division was won by Russell Hill (20:30), followed by Ryan Tomkinson.

— David Biggy


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