The Wounded Warrior Battalion-West paddle board team competed in the 55th annual Catalina Classic, a race from Catalina Island, Calif. to Manhattan Beach, Calif., Aug. 26.
The WWBn-W team was the only relay team to participate in the 32-mile solo race. This year was the second year WWBn-W took part in the event.
The Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation (JMMF), a non-profit organization, provided supplies, entry fees and training support for the wounded warriors.
The JMMF is dedicated to creating and providing activities and programs to help those with mental and emotional illness benefit, regularly, from the therapeutic and healing powers of the ocean, according to the JMMF website.
By participating, wounded warriors learn to live again through sports, said Shawn Dunn, a retired chief warrant officer three and volunteer.
After 11 weeks of practice, the WWBN-W team, comprised of five active-duty Marines, crossed the finish line at six hours, 55 minutes, and 44 seconds.
“The race is closed at eight hours, and the solo winners typically come in at five-and-a-half hours,” said Kas Parson, an exercise physiologist for WWBn-W. “Our goal was to cross the finish line at six hours.”
Each of the five Marines paddled six to eight miles during the race across the Catalina Channel, which is notorious for its rough water. As the only competitors to compete as a relay team, the WWBn-W had the disadvantage.
“Doing change-overs stops you,” said Parsons. “You get into a good pace, and stopping hinders you.”
Staff Sgt. David McCreary, a platoon sergeant with WWBn-W, saw the drawbacks, but also recognized the silver lining to the disadvantage.
“It’s kind of a trade off because we lost time, however, we always had a fresh set of arms,” McCreary said.
For some, this experience was about more than winning a race.
“Success is no longer defining themselves by their injuries,” Dunn said.
For information on the Catalina Classic, visit http://catalinaclassicpaddleboardrace.org/