Held every year since the school opened 16 years ago, the Cardboard Boat Race has become an unofficial right of passage for the seventh grade students of Destin Middle School — a watery test preparing them for the eighth grade.
With their cardboard creations in tow nearly 200 teens and preteens — along with their teachers and parents — converged on Destin's Clement Taylor Park Friday for the highly anticipated annual regatta.
According to Paula Farland, a Destin Middle School science teacher, seventh grade team leader and regatta organizer since 2004, the race was a splashing — and sometimes sinking — success.
"Everyone worked really hard . . . all of the boats are so original," Farland said. "And we were so lucky to have such a great group of parents willing to help out today."
Farland told The Log that the students begin learning about boats in early March, and the race at Clement Taylor Park is a fun way to conclude their vessel lessons.
"This is an interdisciplinary project," said Farland. "Meaning the teachers tie boats and boating into their normal curriculum in all of the courses."
Building a boat made out of cardboard is easier in theory than in practice. On average, it took the teams about two to three weeks to complete their boats.
Sam Houston, 12, and Jessica Reim, 13, both aboard the boat Nemo, told The Log that it took them about three weekends to build their boat.
"We worked on it during the week some too," said Houston.
Once they had their boats in the water, the students discovered that the construction of the boats had in fact been a breeze compared to keeping them above water and in floatable condition.
Some of the cardboard hulls were no match for the water as they returned a battered, beaten, heavy pile of cardboard mush. Paddling with cardboard was no easy feat either.
Even though a few of the boats sank, taking their captain and crew down with them, the students had a great time.
Thirteen-year-old Lindsey Halstead and her crew painted their bodies blue to match their boat, the Blue Smurfs. Chelsea Deramus, 12, and Abbi Kethcersid, 13, were the other two Smurfs on the boat.
"We painted our hands blue and put handprints all over the outside of our boat," said Kethcersid. "That was our main decoration."
The overall winners for the 2013 Cardboard Boat Race were:
1st Place: Chick-Fil-A; Thomas Driscoll, Grant DuVall, Carson Miller and Dylan Olsen.
2nd Place: Pink Shark/Breast Cancer; Danny O'Shea, Gabe Roque, Nicholas Sherer and Trevor Thompson.
3rd Place: Aqua Angels; Megan Chavez, Caroline Porter and Kacie Silkie.
Best Boat Theme: Neverland; Nick Cobble, Elaina Davies, Kylee Divens and Katie Mignacca.
Best Boat Design: Duck Dynasty; Ryan Bell and Luke Chirum.
Davy Jones Locker Award (funniest sinker); Vans Off the Wall; Delaney Decker, Carlos Elizondo, Arione Rawls and Winifren Santos.