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Local team reflects on Eco-Challenge Fiji thrills, chills and spills – Santa Cruz Sentinel

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Native staff displays on Eco-Problem Fiji thrills, chills and spills – Santa Cruz Sentinel

The tough stuff was behind Group Curl, a Santa Cruz-heavy squad competing on the World’s Hardest Race: Eco-Problem Fiji. The rest of it was basically downhill.

Greater than per week into its trek throughout picturesque Fiji, the staff was cruising on a descending mountain street on bikes. As soon as it reached its vacation spot, it was slated to paddle board down a river to get to an outrigger canoe and race to the end line on a close-by island.

“We might see the islands within the distance,” stated Group Curl’s Justin Smith, an avid bicycle owner and hiker. “We have been all simply as excessive as a kite.”

Group Curl — competing in its first journey race — made it to Day 10 of the World’s Hardest Race and was rapidly approaching checkpoint No. 29 of 31. Too rapidly, they later realized.

Group member Steven Lenhart, a former Santa Cruz resident who shined for the San Jose Earthquakes from 2011-16, misplaced management of his mountain bike at a excessive velocity and crashed. Group Curl by no means crossed the end line.

Sixty-six groups from 30 international locations competed within the race, which befell Sept. 5-25, 2019. Group Curl was in the course of the pack when it bowed out.

Group Curl from the USA (staff members Jennifer Hemmen, Justin Smith, Brett Gavlin, Steven Lenhart and Jeff Failers) competes through the 2019 Eco-Problem journey race in Fiji on Sept. 13, 2019. (Amazon – Contributed)

The ten-episode sequence — produced by Bear Grylls, host of “Man vs. Wild,” and Mark Burnett, the manager producer of “Survivor” — was launched on Amazon Prime Video on Aug. 14. Group Curl obtained to relive all of the highs and lows of their epic journey and was happy with the ultimate product.

“It was a bit of bit sensationalized,” stated Group Curl’s Brett Gravlin of Santa Cruz, who stays energetic in CrossFit and seaside volleyball. “However Santa Cruz has stereotypes, so why not play it up?”

Group Curl loved its expertise sufficient to use for Eco-Problem Patagonia in 2021. Smith, Graviln and Lenhart hope to affix forces once more in Chile. If chosen, the staff will characteristic a newcomer, Smith’s spouse, Melissa. Group Curl captain Jennifer Hemmen, an ultra-marathoner out of Honest Oaks, has joined one other staff.

A facet observe within the sequence, Smith stated he believes Group Curl made probably the most of its airtime, endearing itself to viewers with its regular progress and fun-loving strategy to journey racing.

“We didn’t have any expectations,” Gravlin stated of the airtime his staff acquired. “They pre-released which groups they’d concentrate on and we weren’t one in all them.”

For the primary time on their journey, a digicam crew joined Group Curl because it obtained misplaced on an extended, draining hike over a mountain go late within the race (Episode 9). The staff was rapidly dropping daylight however stopped on a vista to soak in an imposing sundown.

“We stopped for like an hour,” Gravlin stated.

The cameraman was caught off guard by their choice — this was a race in any case.

“What are you doing?” he requested.

“What do you imply?” stated Gravlin, as he and his teammates smiled and loved the fantastic thing about the their atmosphere.

It was one Gravlin’s favourite elements of the race.

Group Curl, from left, Steven Lenhart, Jennifer Hemmen, Justin Smith, Brett Gravlin, and Jeff Failers, competed within the 2019 Eco-Problem journey race in Fiji. Smith and Gravlin are Santa Cruz residents. Lenhart used to dwell in Santa Cruz. (Idris Solomon – Amazon)

A lot of Group Curl’s exhibiting didn’t make the minimize, nonetheless.

Smith stated the chain on his bike wasn’t practical after it was arrange improperly. He was pressured to hold his bike up hills earlier than coasting down, which explains the staff’s pleasure as they blazed down the mountainside at speeds increased than 30 mph (Episode 10).

Digital camera crews confirmed Lenhart — an avid swimmer, surfer and biker who lives in Newport Seashore — laying on the bottom with a bloodied lip, nostril and chin, massive raspberry-colored bruise on his proper hip and torn fingernail after his crash.

Gravlin stated the hill was so steep that it took him 100 yards to return to a cease.

Hindsight is 20-20. “We had nothing to achieve by going quick,” Gravlin stated.

Gravlin and Smith stated the severity of Lenhart’s crash was misplaced on viewers. On-site medical employees steered he might need a damaged collarbone and pelvis in addition to a fractured rib, Smith stated.

“The digicam crew didn’t catch it, however he hit his head,” Gravlin stated. “And he has a historical past of concussions. I’m fairly positive that led to the tip of his MLS profession.”

Two Group Curl members stroll by way of the water through the 2019 Eco-Problem journey race in Fiji on Sept. 11, 2019. (Krystle Wright – Amazon)

And with a lot street rash, the staff was apprehensive about getting Lenhart onto a paddleboard within the subsequent stage. Many rivers are crammed with sewage and the chance of an infection is excessive.

Group Curl determined that was the tip of the street. They dropped out of the competitors.

Lenhart couldn’t be reached for remark, however advised digicam crews: “{Our relationships} are rather more lasting than this race. If we keep oriented to: we didn’t end the race is that being like the one purpose there was, then that’s a extremely myopic view of what occur the final week,” Lenhart stated. “I’m so happy with Group Curl. We had fun. We additionally grinded so much, pushed by way of and did what we did.”

Twenty-two groups represented the U.S., however solely 12 completed the grueling race. Group Bend Racing out of Oregon was the highest American squad, taking 14th place in 181 hours and 51 minutes.

Group New Zealand — Nathan Fa’avae (TC), Sophie Hart, Stuart Lynch, Chris Forne, Mark Rayward (TAC) — received the race in 141 hours and 23 minutes.

It was an epic journey for Group Curl, which reached the fourth camp and closing camp at evening after being misplaced within the highlands.

Group Curl’s Steven Lenhart, a former San Jose Earthquakes soccer participant who lived in Santa Cruz, climbs a mountain through the 2019 Eco-Problem journey race in Fiji on Sept. 16, 2019. (Tara Kerzhner – Amazon)

“What’s it about that unknown that’s attractive, counting on ourselves and one another?” Lenhart advised digicam crews after Group Curl trudged into camp. “It’s creating one thing fairly good inside.”

Lenhart acquired loads of air time in episodes No. 9 and 10, through which he discusses his father committing suicide 9 years in the past.

“For me, it was an enormous bomb,” Lenhart advised digicam crews. “It simply blew the whole lot up. It pressured me to rethink the whole lot I used to be doing. Metabolizing that’s what I’m right here for. I believe the World’s Hardest Race is providing that to me, to totally present up and get my (butt) kicked.”

Lenhart expressed frustration after throwing warning to the wind whereas dashing downhill. The staff consoled him after his crash and he was transported to a hospital an hour away.

“We have been shut, however it’s extra essential to have a buddy,” stated Gravlin, because the digicam crew captured him combating again tears. “It was an important race till then and it nonetheless is as a result of he’s alive and comfortable and we’re all mates. It could’ve been good to complete however possibly we’ll get ’em subsequent 12 months.”

Eco-Problem Fiji

Prime finishers
1. Group New Zealand (New Zealand), 141 hours 23 minutes
2. Group Canada Journey (Canada), 143 hours 0 minutes
3. Group Gippsland Journey (Australia), 143 hours 31 minutes
4. Group Tiki Tour (New Zealand), 151 hours 59 minutes
5. Group Vidaraid Journey (Brazil), 154 hours 18 minutes
Didn’t end: Group Curl (USA), Jennifer Hemmen (TC), Justin Smith, Brett Gravlin, Steven Lenhart, Jeff Failers (TAC)


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