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Pawleys Island: Kayak races suffer first rainout in 17 years

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

The early afternoon thunderstorms Tuesday were only one reason for canceling this year’s Pawleys Island Kayak Races. The rain on Monday also took its toll. Half of the paddlers who registered dropped out.

The race has followed the tides, bucked headwinds and skirted storms every July since 1997. This was the first time it has been canceled.

“We get about 50 percent of our entrants the day of the race,” Mayor Bill Otis said. “Instead of getting 50 percent more, 50 percent of the 14 or so who registered called to cancel.”

One paddler came early from Murrells Inlet to prepare for the race. He told Otis he was still ready to go. “Seven people wouldn’t give you much of a race,” the mayor told him.

There was concern earlier this month when Tropical Storm Arthur passed up the coast just before the Fourth of July. The town’s parade has never been rained out in 48 years. Otis said he wasn’t going to let the first rainout happen on his watch.

Although the kayak races aren’t quite as iconic, they still draw repeat visitors and people who schedule vacations to coincide with race day.

“My sense of it is that more than 50 percent are off-island folks,” Otis said. He planned to take a more formal count this year. “We like to support things on-island as much as we can for off-island folks.”

Because they are scheduled around an afternoon high tide, it would be hard to reschedule and get the word out, Otis said. Surf the Earth helps organize the race and it has to fit their schedule, too, he said.

Owner Scott Benston won the overall race in 2001 before changing roles. That was the first year the race was buffeted by storms, even though it was held at 8 o’clock in the morning.

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