High praise for Ocean City’s second Navy SEALs event

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OCEAN CITY — Invited to “join the fight” for the second annual StandUP4SEALS event on the beach on Saturday, May 25, more than 700 eager athletes competed in a challenging endurance test.

Designed to honor Navy Seals and assist the families of those lost in battle, the event also attracted a large crowd of spectators.

Competitors maneuvered their way through a two-mile mud-run style obstacle course, spreading from Third Street to 14th Street, competed in a stand up paddleboard race in the ocean or gave it their all for the kid’s fun run on the sand.

“It was a wonderful event,” said Becky Jenkins, who coordinated the paddleboard event.

“We had 50 paddlers. The weather conditions were perfect, the flat water made paddling enjoyable. We had great feedback, everyone loved that we made the paddleboard competition a little more challenging this year.”

The obstacle course included scaling huge mounds of sand along the two-mile course, including one that took competitors through a tunnel and into a giant pit of cold water, an army crawl under the Music Pier, carrying 25 pound sacks of water, calisthenics, a balance beam walk and a mental challenge. 

Members of the Ocean City Fire Department helped set the course up, including posting a giant hose that sprayed the competitors when they hit the pit. Many hesitated before they slugged through the water, knowing they had to run the remainder of the course cold and sopping wet. 

The calisthenics were a challenge, too. Competitors stopped at Eighth Street to perform 200 jumping jacks, 100 mountain climbs, 50 jumps, 50 sit-ups, 25 squat thrusts with a push-up mixed in, 25 push-ups with a side raise and 25 pelvic thrusts.

The Stand-up Paddleboard race took paddlers through the surf and back, where competitors performed an obstacle course that included calisthenics.

Dept. Chief Charlie Bowman of the OCFD competed in the paddleboard race on a team comprising himself, Matt Slaughter, Sara Clark and Colin Devine. The team came in first place.

“It was excellent, we had perfect conditions, a great course and an awesome event,” he said, adding that he preferred competing in the water to competing on land. “Paddling was easy compared to the hills, burpees and push-ups.”

Bowman’s daughter, Caroline Bowman, an Ocean City High School senior, competed with Lorie Rice, Tina Spadafora and Ray Clark.

“It was hard,” she said, adding that she was happy to share the challenge with three teammates.

Councilmen Antwan McClellan and Keith Hartzell volunteered for the event.

“I have friends participating, we all support each other,” McClellan said.

“Anything that has to do with veterans, I’m going to show up,” said Hartzell. “The veterans are the reason we can have council meetings, that we can host events like this, because they fought for our freedom.

“I remember asking my dad, what would have happened if we had lost World War II, and he said that we would be speaking German,” he said. “The World War II veterans are so humble, Veterans in general are humble. This is the least we can do to help their families.”

The event concluded with a wreath-laying ceremony to honor fallen heroes. Paddleboard competitors paddled out into the ocean, formed a prayer circle, and sent the wreath out to sea.

The Seals, an elite Naval unit was established five decades ago by President John F. Kennedy, to operate in any environment, Sea, Air and Land.

Mark Baum, a former Seal and 31-year veteran of the Ocean City Beach Patrol, helped coordinate the event.

The former OCBP lieutenant served in the U.S. Navy in Vietnam and is the chief of operations for UDT/SEAL, Underwater Demolition Team, for New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania, an organization which raises money for the families of the fallen members of Navy special warfare teams.

Baum, who is organizing a similar event in Longport on June 30 and another in Seaside Heights in August, said his organization provides a sense of peace and confidence for Seals.

“That their families will be taken care of in a time of crisis,” said Baum. “There is no greater thing that a Navy Seal can do than take care of their fallen comrades.” 

“We’re hoping to put all three events together, starting with Ocean City on Memorial Day weekend,” he said. “We want to encourage teams and individuals to compete in all three. It will be like NASCAR, you get points, with an overall champion.”

Baum, who served as a Seal in the 1970s, said Seals work for 10 months a year, anywhere in the world, without coming home. Seals are gone for a long, long time, he said. Their families don’t know where they are and sometimes they don’t make it home.

Every dollar raise is going to StandUP4SEALS, for the families, Baum said.

Lt. Cmdr. Ben Charles of the U.S. Navy, served as master of ceremonies for the event. The Naval fighter pilot, an Ocean City High School and Naval Academy graduate lives in California and was happy to be home for the weekend visiting family with his wife, Heidi, and two children.

“It’s nice to be home,” he said. “They started this last year, built it from the ground up and I’m happy to help them. They do this to help guys like me, to help the families.

“I feel like I represent present and past military folks, and Ocean City has always been very supportive of me.”

Charles said he sees bigger things coming for the event.
“This is just the start, the race will continue to grow,” he said.

Aimee Vaules, event coordinator, said the city has already invited them back next year.

“Everything went off without a hitch,” she said. “We’re going to have bigger obstacles, tougher races and more fun for the kids.”

The event included the “passing of the paddle,” from Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian to Longport Mayor Nick Russo, who will host the next event on June 30. 


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