Solana Beach lifeguards are inviting the public to paddleboard in memory of one of their own during the second annual Iron Mike Paddle Sept. 20 at Fletcher Cove in Solana Beach.
The five-mile paddleboard race and surfing festival was founded last year in honor of late Solana Beach lifeguard Mike McKay, who died when he was 23 in an avalanche at Mountain High Ski Resort in January 2008.
“Mike was a very positive person who always had a smile on his face,” said Solana Beach Marine Safety Sgt. Greg Uruburu, an Encinitas resident who worked with McKay. “He was somebody I always wanted to be around.”
Although McKay was only a Solana Beach lifeguard for one season, he made an impact on the department and was honored in 2007 as the “Rookie of the Year,” Uruburu said. Now called the “Mike McKay Rookie of the Year” in memory of McKay, recipients of the annual award receive a $500 scholarship from the Mike McKay Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit established by McKay’s family. Proceeds from Iron Mike Paddle will benefit the foundation.
“He was here for only one season, but he had a really significant impact on everybody,” Uruburu said. “He had the respect of his peers and his supervisors alike — just through his work ethic.”
A longtime resident of Wrightwood, Calif., McKay was an emergency medical technician, lead ski patroller and lifeguard. He was an avid soccer player, surfer, hiker, mountain bike rider, rock climber and skier. He was pursuing his master’s degree in psychology at National University in La Jolla at the time of his death.
Because McKay was always outdoors, Uruburu said he couldn’t think of a better way to honor and remember his friend than an event like the Iron Mike Paddle.
“Mike was so involved,” he said. “When he passed, it was such a shock to all of us. We all knew we wanted to do something for him.”
Last year’s Iron Mike Paddle, which attracted 33 racers and about 400 attendees, raised roughly $5,000. Event organizers plan to double the amount of participants and attendees this year.
Co-sponsored by the city of Solana Beach and organized by the Solana Beach Lifeguard Association and nonprofit Rerip, Iron Mike Paddle will take place from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 20.
Like last year, the event will feature a five-mile paddleboard race and a one-mile kids paddleboard race, a surfboard swap, art, live music and a taco truck from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. New this year is the Grom O’ Rama kids’ surf contest.
“We just want to pay tribute to Mike, his family and what he was all about,” Uruburu said. “He was really special.”
For more about the event, visit www.facebook.com/ironmikepaddle. Register at racemill.com.
For more about the Mike McKay Memorial Foundation, visit mikemckaymemorial.org.