[After two potential contributors vanished we had planned on skipping all coverage of this year’s Daytona Freeride altogether. That is, until photographer James Ragan reached out and offered to provide both his photography and written report. – Ed.]
Every now and then you find yourself at the right place at the right time. That is exactly what happened to me. My wife and I were staying at The Plaza Resort and Spa on Daytona Beach for the Florida Smooth Jazz Weekend. On Friday, January 18, about 10am we heard jet skis outside of our room. I went out on the balcony to see what was going on. Off to the left there was about 50 riders out in the surf. I figured this was a normal sight in Daytona Beach.
I grabbed my camera and took a few pictures from my 10th floor view. Because we had a lunch engagement, I was unable to go to the beach. I had about 2 hours to spend on the beach before our events were to start. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon, about 70 degrees. The wind was about 6mph with an ENE direction. The surf was about 3-to-4 feet.
Not knowing much of the sport or any of the riders, I decided to stay in one area. As the riders went up and down the beach, I was able to take photos of their back flips, jumps and various maneuvers in the surf. It was difficult to watch everyone. Off to the left you might catch someone doing a trick. I would watch him hoping he would do it again. Then you would see something cool right in front of you or off to the left. I always had to keep my eyes open, hoping to catch something special.
I was able to talk to several of the riders. Most of them were from out of state. One individual was from Michigan. He told me that this was a special event. This was the Daytona Beach Freeride. It only happens once a year. He also informed me of their Facebook page. Wow! That is what I meant about being at the right place at the right time.
On Saturday January 19th about 10am, the action resumed. It was another beautiful day about 77 degrees, but the wind shifted directions. It was now out of the south about 9mph. The surf was a little smaller, about 2-to-3 feet. As the afternoon continued the conditions improved. I had about 2 hours to spend on the beach. I mainly concentrated on the riders directly in front of me or very close. I was also able to get closer to the action with the smaller waves by being able to go a short distance into the water. Only able to take photos for about 4 hours I ended up with over 4,000 shots.
I really enjoyed going through them trying to pick out the best. It wasn’t easy. There were many more to choose from. I also wanted to share as many different rides as I could. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any of the rider’s personal contact info. It would have been nice to have contact with them, find out what they thought of the event, and maybe get a few quotes. I hope you enjoy looking at my images as much as I had taking them. I would like to thank everyone who participated in the event and The Watercraft Journal.