OCEAN GATE – Cool breezes rippled through the warm air. Beachgoers lounged in the sand. It was the portrait of an ideal mid-August morning. And it was a perfect day for the Ocean Gate EMS’s annual cardboard boat race, a hallmark of Ocean Gate Day.
“I thought it’d just be kind of fun,” 12-year-old Constantine Soupios, a first-time competitor, explained. He stood before the Jambers, his cardboard boat, meticulously duct-taped and adorned with Jambers the stuffed cat. Jambers, the boat’s namesake, lounged on a toy pitchfork at the helm of the boat, looking out toward the water.
Soupios and his grandfather, Chester Lakomy, 74, spent about four to five days crafting the Jambers. The creation demanded “a lot of tape wrapping and thought,” according to Lakomy.
Vicky Weiss, 64, and Kuki Livingston, 62, of Ocean Gate were third-time competitors at the race. The couple boasted a past victory as fastest finishers from their first competition, where they dressed in period clothing to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of Ocean Gate. They secured the Titanic Award at their second competition for the most impressive sinking.
Weiss, Livingston and their crew of supporters were bedecked in pirate attire to match their ship, the Captain Morgan. They used roughly 15 rolls of duct tape to become competition ready. Weiss and Livingston already look to next year’s race to set sail on a fleet that will honor breast cancer awareness.
Soupios and Lakomy and Weiss and Livingston were among the many competitors that echoed a core sentiment of the annual cardboard boat race: Family tradition.
“I just love seeing the community get together,” Ocean Gate EMS Chief Samantha Margaretta said.
The event, according to EMS President George Chernego, took root in 2013 after Superstorm Sandy devastated the community in 2012. The cardboard boat race was a way for residents to take their minds off recent events.
It became clear with each passing year that the race has become a fun family tradition, old for some and new for others.
“The adults are more competitive than the children are,” Chief Margaretta said.
Races, broken up by age group, commenced on either side of the Wildwood Avenue Pavilion pier. Contestants would attempt to paddle around the pier, with first responders ready to assist in the water should they need it. Contestants aimed to finish the course first in their group but could aspire to win other awards, like the Titanic Award. The Ocean Gate EMS judges also award the Spirit Award to the most spirited team and the Judge’s Choice award.
Sibling duo Elizabeth Roth, 8, and James Roth, 10, took first place in the 8 to 11-year-old age group. According to James Roth, it took about a day to assemble their ship. As for the fate of the aforementioned Jambers and Captain Morgan: The Jambers took second place in the 12 to 17-year-old age group and the Captain Morgan took the Spirit Award.
To learn more about this year’s annual cardboard boat race or stay tuned for next year’s race, visit oceangateems.org/cardboard-boat-race.html.