WALTON COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - An annual event designed to bring the community together is back again.
The 10th Annual YOLO Board Relay Series at The Bay restaurant on Highway 331, invites athletes of all ages and skill levels, including Special Olympians, to come on out.
"The relay series started at the very beginning of our business in the early days of paddle boarding," said YOLO Board CEO Jeff Archer.
For the past decade, YOLO Board Adventures has been hosting an event celebrating a sport almost anyone can do.
"It's just, there is something about the accomplishment of actually standing up and being on top of the water like your actually conquering something," said Walton County Special Olympics Fundraising Director Mike Schumacher.
Archer said with the help of Schumacher, this event was taken to a new level.
"[Schumacher] was instrumental in helping us put it together with Special Olympics so we have a team now each season and we actually have one of our athletes going to the nationals this year," Archer said.
"We have about 100 athletes in the program right now. I helped restart it back in 2012," explained Schumacher. "It's an entire county program so we have a good group up in the north end of Defuniak, also in Freeport and South Walton."
Schumacher said he's even seen the difference it has made in his special needs son.
"Even my own son does it and I never thought. He didn't even like to swim and now he up paddling around. It's a sense of accomplishment," he pointed out.
"There are so many facets to this sport that people are discovering and to me that is one of the cool things about it. You know, you make paddle boarding what it is for you.," Archer said.
"Some of these athletes, what people don't realize is they are athletes," Schumacher explained. "They may have an intellectual disability but they are really good, hardcore athletes. So it's great to have that sense of community around with not just, they're a part of the community. That's what it really feels like."
Thursday's event was the first of their three-part standup paddle board race series. The next events will be June 15th and July 20th.