WHAT IS THE SKIFF CHALLENGE?
The idea of the Skiff Challenge began as a head-to-head battle for bragging rights, born from the mind of Heath Daughtry, VP of Yellowfin Yachts. Today, the challenge has evolved into a daring feat among boat manufacturers to shine a spotlight on Florida’s water crisis and raise proceeds to support the mission of Captains For Clean Water.
Boat manufacturers are invited to put their 18-foot skiffs and best teams to the ultimate endurance test by circumnavigating the state of Florida non-stop, from Pensacola to Jacksonville. That’s 1,300 miles in over two days, testing each team’s mental and physical aptitude and providing an unmatched testing ground for the products they build.
Participating boat manufacturers represent the $15 billion marine industry that is directly affected by Florida’s water quality. By competing in this challenge, they are helping raise awareness about Florida’s water crisis and solutions among sportsmen, businesses, and communities, throughout the marine industry who also depend on clean water and healthy estuaries.
The 2019 Florida Skiff Challenge was the fifth-ever event and the first time the event was open to manufacturers outside of Florida. The four teams included Heath Daughtry and Chase Daniel of Yellowfin Yachts (Bradenton, FL), Chris Peterson and JC Peterson of Hell’s Bay Boatworks (Titusville, FL), Chris Kalinowsky and Toby Hansen of Sea Pro Boats (Whitmire, SC), and Mike Marlowe and Jessie Marlowe of Key West Boats (Ridgeville, SC).
The message this year was clear: we want Florida’s water fixed. Supporters were given the opportunity to take action and show support for Governor Ron DeSantis’ $625 million budget for Everglades restoration and critical projects like the EAA Reservoir. We provided an easy resource that allowed supporters to contact their state legislators and federal officials, urging them to support the Governor’s budget and tell them we need this investment to restore our water and protect Florida’s future.
On April 3rd, Governor Ron DeSantis, First Lady Casey DeSantis, DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein, and FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton held a press conference in Fort Walton Beach to commemorate the challenge kickoff, thank the teams who’ve stepped up to raise awareness about Florida’s water crisis, and to speak about the importance of water quality initiatives across the state.
MOST GRUELING CONDITIONS IN CHALLENGE HISTORY
The challenge kicked off on April 4th from Flora-Bama in Pensacola in what were surely the most grueling conditions in Skiff Challenge history. The day began with 20+ mph winds and a severe weather front slowly progressing from the west. With a slated 5:00 pm launch time, teams were released early in an attempt to allow them to get ahead of the impending storm. Instead, the teams were caught in the midst of it, facing darkness, lightning strikes, torrential downpours, and rough seas.
Teams persevered through the worst of it, finding renewed hope as the skies cleared and the sun rose. Unbeknownst to them, thousands of viewers hung on the edge of their seats tracking the teams’ locations on a live map and hashing out every move on the challenge Facebook group.
Team Yellowfin had pulled into the lead under the cover of darkness and performed flawlessly, determined to redeem their two-year streak finishing second. Team Hell’s Bay, the reigning first-place finishers, were forced to re-route in the inclement weather, then were faced with a cracked jackplate and prop replacement. Team Sea Pro kept a steady pace, closing in several times on Hell’s Bay, but never pulling past them. Team Key West hung strong and consistent in the rear, cheered on by the largest fan group in challenge history.
All four teams successfully completed the challenge in under 63 hours, cruising into the COJ St. John’s Marina within a 14.5-hour spread that spanned Saturday evening through Sunday morning. The outpouring of support and encouragement for all four teams came from every direction—made evident by the thousands of engaged members interacting across social media.
A prolific effort by all involved, the 2019 challenge reached over 3 million people through national and local news outlets, online media, and social media, and raised over $58,000 to support the mission of Captains For Clean Water.
WHAT’S IN STORE FOR NEXT YEAR?
The Skiff Challenge has proven to be a captivating catalyst for raising awareness about Florida’s water issues throughout the boating and marine industries. In 2020, the event will return for the sixth year with a limited number of spots available for teams. Exclusive video content, updates, and announcements will be released throughout the year to the Skiff Challenge Facebook Group. Stay tuned, in 2020 the Florida Skiff Challenge will be back bigger and better than ever!
“Had a great time helping kickoff the Captains For Clean Water Skiff Challenge, an event that raises awareness to the unique environmental challenges facing Florida. Thank you @Capt4CleanWater for your support in our efforts to improve our water quality.”
– Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, via Twitter @GovRonDeSantis
“The Skiff Challenge event may be over this year but the fight to fix Florida’s water issues goes on. This is what we fight for, our kids and grandkids deserve the opportunity to enjoy some of the water we had the opportunity to experience these last few days. Even with the horrible weather to kick things off, this has been one of the most rewarding activities I have been a part of. Thank you CFCW for doing what you do and letting Key West Boats be a part of it!”
– Mike Marlowe, Captain, Team Key West
“In all seriousness how is this not on TV? This is the best reality show I’ve ever seen. I’m going to get fired from work trying to keep up with it. Love it…”
– Brandon Nix, Skiff Challenge Facebook Group Member
“I don’t know if watching all these updates and videos is gonna make more manufacturers want to run this event next year or not, but it sure makes us all respect the 8 guys out there and the teams following them more. Prayers for all! #TeamKeyWestBoats”
– The Southern Angler Radio Show, Skiff Challenge Facebook Group Member
“Congratulations to Team Yellowfin for their 2019 Florida Skiff Challenge win! Thank you for your efforts to help raise awareness about Florida’s water quality needs through this incredible feat and their relentless dedication to this challenge.”
– Noah Valenstein, Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, via Twitter @NoahValenstein
“This is the best thing on Facebook ever. Nothing but positivity from everyone on everything I’ve read! For ALL the teams. When everything is always so nasty and negative this is awesome! Love it!”
– Matt Kratochvil, Skiff Challenge Facebook Group Member