Fletcher wins Bermuda Devil’s Isle Challenge

Special to The Log
Destin's Garrett Fletcher, who is sponsored by YOLO, poses for a few photos at the Bermuda Race near the British Fort end point at the Royal Navy Dockyards where the Royal Navy was stationed during their Brittannia days. [SPECIAL TO THE LOG]

Destin’s Garrett Fletcher took first in the Men’s 14-Elite Paddleboard Division 45 mile circumnavigation of Bermuda earlier this month.

Fletcher finished with a time of 6 hours and 24 minutes for the marathon race in harsh conditions. The scheduled 45 mile circumnavigation of the island of Bermuda had to be shortened to 29 miles due to 30 knot winds and high seas, but even at that distance, Fletcher called it "one of the hardest things I've ever done."

With limited experience in ultra endurance races, Fletcher was the first male in the Elite 14 foot division across the finish line beating several of the relay teams and unlimited class racers.

In October of 2016, Fletcher took on his first ultra endurance race, The Chattajack, in a two-man outrigger canoe. The race was a 31 mile flat water race down the Tennessee River. Fletcher and his partner Gary Wise won in a time of 4 hours 40 minutes. Having this win under his belt was the first step in his training to take on the Devil's Island challenge. He admits that he was still nervous going into the race. The six weeks leading up to the race Fletcher had been competing against the top SUP racers in the world in events ranging from the Virgin Islands to North Carolina.

The week before the Devil's Island Challenge he had competed in the 20th annual Key West Classic where he placed fourth by less than 8 minutes behind the leader. This race is a 12 mile circumnavigation of the Island of Key West. Because of his hectic schedule, Fletcher said he felt over trained and wasn't sure how his body would hold up on race day.

"Most events I compete in are 5-8 miles. A long race like the Carolina Cup is 13 miles, which can still take over two hours. I had been training for these races prior to Bermuda and had only committed a few sessions to preparing for a race of this magnitude. Having not trained properly made Bermuda very, very tough. It puts you out of your comfort zone taking on a challenge like this,” Fletcher said.

With more than 20 paddlers on the starting line several had to pull out due to the strong winds.

"A race like this is a big mental game," Fletcher said. "The mind is an incredibly strong muscle and when you make up your mind to achieve something you will. That's what I liked about this race. Even though I began cramping up half way into the race, I decided then and there that I was not only going to finish, but I was going to win."

The Devil's Isle Challenge is held in support of the Plastic Tides organization, devoted to education about the scourge of plastic in our oceans.

With a forecast of steady 25 knot Southeasterly winds, gusting near 30 knots, organizers shifted to a shorter, slightly more protected course. But it was still a massive physical challenge.

"The wind made for one of the hardest paddles I have ever done," Fletcher said. "Going upwind was so hard. There were literally times when I would take a stroke and not move forward a single inch.

“I just kept my head down and tried to listen to my body as much as I could. The two nastiest head wind sections were early on, so I was able to muscle up and pull my way through. This gave me a big advantage and I put a lot of distance on most of the field early in the race."