The Coastal Challenge, a revamped iteration of the former "Fisherman of the Year" event, unfolded throughout the three days of the Pacific Marine Expo. Participants engaged in three preliminary contests before competing for substantial cash prizes and gear in the finals.

Each trial awarded the winner a $100 cash prize, propelling them directly into the decisive finals round. The ultimate victor secured an additional $450 in cash, along with $250 gift cards from both Xtratuf and Grundens, a Rugged Seas backpack, and a selected garment from Zerofit. With a purse exceeding $1,000 in cash and prizes, the competition drew a formidable field of contestants.

Wearing aqua blue Coastal Challenge competitor T-shirts, participants gathered at the opening stage. The initial challenge required contestants to swiftly tie a bowline knot, with the first to accomplish this raising their hands above their heads and claiming a $100 cash prize.

Challenge two focused on net mending, with the first contestant to repair a hole in the net and raise their arms above their head progressing to the next round. Judges Craig Stewart and Hattie Train of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association tested the knots with a pull test.

The third challenge proved the most formidable, as competitors executed an eye-splice in their final attempt to secure a spot in the finals.

The top three finalists converged on center stage with one task remaining. Racing against the clock, they competed to don a survival suit from Kent Safety Products. The first to secure a flap won the grand prize. The tension escalated with a countdown from 5, prompting screams from the audience as competitors wriggled into their suits.

This year’s Coastal Challenge champions, spanning all three days, included Rachel Howland from Seattle, Ty Babb from Homer, Alaska, and Simon March from Juneau, Alaska.

Post-game interviews were conducted with big smiles as winners left the expo over $1,000 richer than when they had arrived.

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Ben Hayden grew up in the shipyards of northern Massachusetts.  His passion for storytelling came about on a freelance film that highlighted businesses, farmers, and fishermen while sailing up the coast of Maine. He can be reached at [email protected].

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