Playing in the Ocean for a Great Cause

Director's Corner with Iron Mike Race Director, Greg Urubru

Race: Iron Mike Paddle and Gromfest
Director: Greg Urubru
Event Date: Saturday, August 15th
Facebook/ IronMike

RM: What was the first year of your event?
GU: 2013

RM: What’s your competitive background?
GU: It all started in K-League for AYSO soccer when I was on the "Gnomes from Gnome". Seriously though, it all stems from growing up in the small town of San Pedro. As kids we played the same sports with the same kids throughout high school, whose parents all played the same sports together when they were kids. The town itself is/was competitive. Then in college I started Ocean Lifeguarding and the focus shifted towards surfing, swimming, paddling etc.  

RM: When/how did you get into Race Directing?
GU: Myself and our Lifeguard Association (Solana Beach Lifeguard Association) wanted to start an annual event to honor one of our Lifeguards who passed well before his time. Obviously, his impact on our department was and still is pretty significant. We came up with an idea of doing an annual paddle race.....and here we are.

RM: Tell us the history of your event? How did it come into being?
GU: It came into being because of Mountain Mike McKay. Mike McKay was a rookie Lifeguard in 2007. He had zero ocean experience really but was a tremendous athlete. On top of that he saw the big picture (in life, friendship, public safety, all the above). He was the youngest Ski Patrol Director at a major US resort (Mountain High, Wrightwood, Ca) prior to completing the SD Regional Academy and getting hired with us. He moved to San Diego from Wrightwood to get his Masters in School Psychology to become a counselor. In his first and only summer (summers are roughly Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend - pretty short amount of time really) he had gained the respect and trust of his supervisors and peers alike. At the end of summer he was voted rookie of the year by the permanent and supervisory staff. Mike was going to be awarded the honor at the Department's Winter Party in front of all the staff. Unfortunately, Mike never received it. Shortly before presenting him with the award, Mike went on a ski trip back home to Wrightwood. The winter was having record snowfall, and while backcountry skiing he was caught in an avalanche and passed from the injuries. His rookie of the year award, has since been named the "Mountain Mike McKay Rookie of the Year Award" and is also a $500 scholarship to the annual recipient. The award/scholarship is one of a few his family presents every year through the foundation they setup in his name:
A few years after Mike's passing, three Rookie Solana Beach Lifegaurds, who never met Mike, decided they wanted to paddle from Trestles to Fletcher Cove in his honor and to raise money for his memorial foundation. They named their paddle "The Iron Mike" This race is an extension of that paddle.  So, if you are still reading...Thanks! I hope I've articulated the smiles, goose bumps and tears we (our LG Assoc) get every time we try to explain how the event came to be.

RM: Describe your race, what is the course like?
GU: The course is a water start at Fletcher Cove's 250 meter buoy. It is 5 mile-ish SUP and prone paddle.  For the most part it is a big misshaped rectangle around Solana Beach's offshore kelp beds. From the starting buoy you paddle south about a mile, round that buoy (aside from the starting line, all the buoys will be the big triangles buoys you see at triathlons) and go out to sea for about a half mile, round the second buoy and start heading back north for up to 2 miles, round the third buoy and head to shore for about a 1/2 mile, then round the last buoy and head back south to the finish line for about another 3/4 mile. There will be a boat anchored off the start/finish line recording time and place.

RM: How has the evolution of the sport evolved and affected your event?
GU: In all positive ways. More people getting into SUP, Prone paddling and more groms surfing. It is a perfect platform for the event and the demographic we are looking for....all ages and all skill levels.

RM: How many racers do you expect on race day?
GU: Hoping for 50... mas o menos

RM: We don't want to get too negative, but what’s your biggest headache as a race director?
GU: Lets just say I hope people show up to paddle in the race and surf in the contest.

RM: Describe the typical participant of your race? Do you have a professional field at your race?
GU: Ranges from the beginner to the guy/gal tapering for The Classic.

RM: Where can we learn more about the foundation?
GU: Proceeds from the Race go the Mike McKay Memorial Foundation:

RM: What is unique about your event? Location? Theme? Nature?
GU: The event is centered at Solana Beach's main beach park...Fletcher Cove. Aside from the paddle, there is also a Grom Surf Contest "The Grom O' Rama", a fair in the park with a food truck, shaved ice, vendors, live music, beer garden and raffle. It is a small-town feel event. We hope to bring out the local community to celebrate and remember someone who served that community.

RM: Local knowledge: Are there any great parts of your race or surrounding area that you would suggest people visit while they are here for the event?
GU: In walking distance from the event there is The Pillbox Tavern, The Saddle Bar, Naked Café and Beerworks (beer tasting). On your way out of town you have to take coast HWY up to Paddle Planet in Leucadia....pretty cool SUP shop.

RM: Prizes? Swag? Sponsors? What should the racers expect?
GU: The paddle will have awards for the top 3 in each division. The Grom O' Rama will have prizes and swag for the grommies surfing. The raffle will have a Firerwire Surfboard, some SUP paddles, swag and more. The headline Sponsors for the event are all Solana Beach Based. The Pillbox Tavern, The Saddle Bar, Naked Café, San Diego Beerworks along with a number of other local companies. Partners in the event are Paddle Planet in Leucadia, the City of Solana Beach, and SBLA

RM: Any last thoughts or shout outs?
GU: Come support something special!
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