By Anna-Marie Menhenott
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY -- When visiting the beach, there is comfort knowing that if the waves get too strong or the undertow takes over, a lifeguard is nearby, watching carefully, and waiting to help.
Unfortunately, due to an already stressed budget, there was a threat that lifeguards across the beaches would decrease leaving ocean-lovers alone on the sandy shore.
One group has decided that the risk of not having trained lifeguards on the beaches far outweighs the benefits, and is doing their part to help costs associated with maintaining their presence.
Epic-Sessions Surf, Skim and Paddle school has teamed up with Mulligans in Vero Beach to present the sixth annual Skim Jam. The event will take place on Aug. 31 on the beach in front of Mulligans from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
In years past, the event has raised money for St. Jude's Children's Hospital. However this year, Vero Beach Lifeguard Association, a group started to keep local lifeguards on the beaches, will be the main beneficiary, with St. Jude's receiving 10 percent of the proceeds.
"We usually have a great turnout due to the fact it is at the beach on Labor Day weekend," said Chris Ellison, owner of Epic-Sessions. "Every year we have around 70- 75 people that enter the contest and hundreds of onlookers. This year we have also added a pro division, which will be bring in professional skim boarders from all over the state."
There will be four divisions in addition to the pro division. The divisions are divided by ability, not age. Participants are judged on creativity, wave selection, tricks performed on the way to the wave, on the wave and on the way back from the wave. The top four contestants in each division will win a trophy and prize pack. All contestants will receive a T-shirt and complimentary lunch from Mulligans.
Those who go to watch the event can participate in a raffle which will include prizes from local businesses, gift certificates, photography packages, surf, skim and paddleboard rentals and other goodies.
"This is really a great cause," Mr. Ellison said. "If we lose our lifeguards, the beaches won't be a safe attraction to tourists. If we start to lose tourists, the already struggling economy will suffer further. This is a great way to help keep the lifeguards on the beach and also help the children at St. Jude's."
For more information on the event, visit www.epic-sessions.com.