Onstage, the teams performed their skits, many of which involved men stripping to their underwear and making thrusting motions. The judges joked, or actually they were probably serious, about giving more points to the skits that included copious use of the Red Bull trademark.

J.R. and Adam stood near their boat, watching the duct-tape engineers gyrate in robot costumes, when disaster struck. They turned around and saw someone moving inside the fragile dome of their boat. At first, they thought it was Winston, making last-minute repairs. Then a drunk stranger in a white tank top stuck his head out of an opening to pose for a photo. He stumbled, back and to the side, and brought the whole thing down in a heap. The tourist extracted himself, nice and sweaty.

"You're going to go down the river in this?" he slurred in a European accent.

Jon DeVore (left) and Clint Clawson start the event with a successful landing.
Josh Ritchie/Red Bull Content Pool
Jon DeVore (left) and Clint Clawson start the event with a successful landing.
Hayden Pollack, Jordan Berke, and Sam Risberg, engineering students from FSU, pilot their duct-tape craft.
Todd Roller
Hayden Pollack, Jordan Berke, and Sam Risberg, engineering students from FSU, pilot their duct-tape craft.

"We were," said J.R.

The boat was destroyed. The dome of pipes and tarp, which was supposed to resemble a horizontal Red Bull can, was reduced to a crumpled mess dotted with deflated balloons. Only the air mattress was left.

Crowds gathered on the banks, and Red Bull employees dressed in gondolier attire (striped shirts, flat hats) struggled to keep things moving smoothly. Teams were performing skits, then dragging their boats to the dock and attempting to launch two at a time.

The "Hawaiian Tango Boys," a group of men from Fort Lauderdale, did a hula in grass skirts in front of the crowds and judges, but when they got to the water, their boat was stuck in line, and they had to wait. Some spectators were running back and forth from the stage to the river, and others didn't seem to care what was going on. The sun was hot. The show came to a halt when the bridge opened for a passing yacht. "If we can just get a good rhythm going," one worker said to another through the walkie-talkie on his shoulder. Eventually somebody decided to change the routine: They would finish all the remaining skits, then launch.

Vessels filled the water: Jet Skis for videography, a boat-salvage tug, a police boat, several smaller craft. Finally, amid the smell of barbecued meat and suntan lotion, J.R., Kyle, and Winston toted a lone air mattress, stripped of its boat-like components, to the water's edge. Forlornly, it agreed to float. It was a humble solution even in this festival of half-assedness.

The MC who was narrating the launches laughed at them. "I'll bet anyone $20 that that thing is going to sink," he said.

"Hey, I have $20," said Errington, who was sitting on the dock with the other judges. The bet was on.

The truth is in the crash.

The Gilligan's Island girls floated for ten seconds; then their raft listed and heaved underneath them, and they splashed into the water. "Let's swim it!" shouted Amanda, and they did.

Adam, Ameer, and their teammate, Andre Rodrigues, capsized completely and needed to be rescued by a roving towboat. One unfortunate box-shaped boat shed materials almost immediately after entering the water.

Near the halfway mark of the third-of-a-mile course, a boat built by members of Coast Guard Sector Miami began to take on water and sink. Their boat was made of cardboard covered in biodegradable paint. A Barbie doll fixed to the bow was their siren; U.S. and Coast Guard flags fluttered at the back. As it sank, the guardsmen jumped out of the cardboard cutter and swam in long sidestrokes toward the finish. Sean McNamara, the team leader, swam beside the other two. He held the American flag and the Barbie doll, salvaged from the boat. He swam with one hand, holding the flag over his head, refusing to let it touch the water.

J.R., Kyle, and Winston finished the course in just under ten minutes without falling off the mattress. Afterward, they stood dripping wet and posed together for a cameraman.

The ten heats of the race were nearly over. People strolled down the Riverwalk en masse, back to the park where they'd find out who won for fastest time, best skit, and People's Choice. Adam, who had been walking along the bank taking pictures of his friends on the mattress, joined them. The atmosphere was more mellow now. People were getting tired.

The "Techno Vikings," a team from the University of Central Florida in Orlando, won the race in a dark-brown homemade longboat. They paddled it dressed in heavy faux-fur costumes sewed by a team member's girlfriend's grandmother. "Carpe D'Alien," the team of recovering alcoholics in silver alien regalia, took second place as well as the People's Choice award. The winning teams received trophies made of Red Bull cans and gift certificates to local restaurants.

In a few hours, the river would return to its normal state, plied by pleasure craft carrying a privileged few. Falling into it would be a bad thing again.

Jon DeVore and Clint Clawson were finishing lunch on Las Olas. The next day, the skydivers would fly to their next drop site and do it all over again: releasing, falling, swooping, high-five.

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My Voice Nation Help

You people are mean. The writer is clearly young and trying hard. Leave him alone.

You also forgot to mention this strange string of non-sense: "Now the buildings were more real, and the big, blue tower by the river, shaped like a butterfly, presented its rooftop cooling units and came up to meet him, then pulled on past, near as a train you'd run to catch."

Don't try quite so hard.


One of the most poorly written articles I have ever read. the writer seems extremely bitter and his writing skills are equal to that of a high schooler.


the taste of alien candy?


"The high-noon sun was a charm, and everybody stared into it, searching for a human form."


Let me guess, undergraduate english major interning for credit? Still, this wasn't a complete waste of time. Good effort, bro.

Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey

I liked "the silver can, the promise"

Stefan: You're a good writer, just tone down the language.

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