Every year Dana Point, California has an amazing festival celebrating the whales. It is two fun weekends that showcases art, music, nature, and fun events. During the second weekend of this festival, West Winds Sailing holds a cardboard "dinghy dash" that is one of my favourite events to attend. It is also the very first event that I got to volunteer for and shoot as a professional photographer so I was very excited to return and take photographs again.
The day began with a lot of fog but also a lot of excitement. To say that people really get into this event is an understatement. I can totally understand why they do because it is a lot of fun. Each group gets a pre decided amount of cardboard, two rolls of duct tape, and 3 hours to make their boat. They can only use the tape for seams (they can't line the bottom) and other than that, your imagination is the only thing holding you back. There are awards for best spirit, winners of the race, best design, and the "titanic award." Because of this, some go for practical and fast and others really get into the design.
It is really cool to see how the boats progress. When I first walk around to take pictures I can't help but notice that many of the boats just look like a box. However, after several hours they really start to take form and it is quite amazing to see how cool the boats come out. Some are absolutely decked out with a theme. Some of the younger kids take it upon themselves to decorate themselves with the left over cardboard which always makes for funny photos. Most of all I enjoy walking around and deciding which boats will fail epically and which ones I think will win. Last year I was pleasantly surprise to find that I was wrong about many of them. However, this year I am older and wiser and was right about many of them.
After the building time was up, it was time to get the race started. This year I got to be a "ringer" for a friends team. One day we were all chatting and they were saying they needed a paddler that was both tiny but fast. Needless to say, I got nominated pretty quick.
The race is a lot of fun with everyone starting on the beach and running down, teams carrying the boat, to the water. From there it's tricky business to get into your boat quickly without sinking it. This is a critical moment, I have seen many a boat sink at the start due to an overzealous paddler jumping in. Then it's a straight shot to a cute little floating dolphin about 25m out. With a quick little turn, you are on your way back to the beach where you meet your team to run to the finish line with your boat. This is all assuming you haven't sunk along the way. Sinking, swimming, kicking, or otherwise propelling your boat without your wee little paddle will get you a DQ pretty quick so it's best to paddle hard and fast. It was so much fun and with the excellent design of my teams boat, we were able to pull off a win.
My two favourite races are the teenager race and the kids race. It's always fun to see how into it the teenagers get. They are so ridiculous that most the time they sink and while their boat hovers 3 feet under water, they just keep paddling. The kids are funny too as they are so tiny that their boats rarely sink. I watched a few kids race, come back in, then take their boat back out for a few victory laps just because it held together so well.
After the races they compiled the results and give out awards. Everyone sticks around to clean up and cheer on the victors. All in all, it is an amazing race that I love being part of. The atmosphere and stoke are infectious; you can't help feeling excited and want to join in. Awesome job to everyone who contribute and a huge thank you to the volunteers and West Winds for making this happen. Hopefully I will be here to photograph again next year.
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