âFor all of our veterans here, please understand that we are doing all of this for you. All of our time, all of our support, that’s all for you,â said Anthony Hsieh, CEO of LoanDepot, who conceptualized the unique sport fishing tournament in 2018. He added, âIt’s amazing how far we’ve come in three years, and there is already a lot of interest and chatter about the tournament. next year. I hope the world stabilizes, so that we can prepare for an unprecedented fourth year. “
This year’s tournament faced unprecedented challenges. As the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the world in early spring, tournament organizers worked diligently to establish a series of strict safety protocols, including a rigorous series of COVID-19 tests, which would ensure the health of all participants. The tournament also reduced the number of participants to ensure that an appropriate distance is maintained throughout the event. And, while the scale may have been slightly smaller than initially expected, the impact was significantly greater.
âThe spirit around this year’s event has been unprecedented and completely unexpected,â added Hsieh. âDuring the boat parade, people literally came out of their homes, flags in hand, to honor our veterans. The patriotism we all felt has been incredible. I hope this tournament continues well beyond this. than we can imagine today. “
The 2021 tournament is already in the planning phase, with a goal of welcoming over 100 veterans and increasing $ 1 million for the ongoing therapeutic services that are essential to combat wounded veterans upon their return from service.
This year’s event kicked off on Thursday October 1st with a very first parade of boats in Newport harbor. Participating veterans boarded their assigned yachts from Hsieh’s home, which then gathered in the Newport Turning Basin in preparation for the country artist’s national anthem singing Tyler Rich. After the performance, Rich, along with various tournament participants, led the parade aboard the yacht, Cielo Mare. The 12 participating yachts in the tournament fell behind and were joined by more than 60 local boats for a happy and entertaining loop through Newport Harbor. The tournament boats then set sail to begin their two-day fishing adventure off the crystal-clear waters of Santa Catalina Island, an area considered to be the cradle of modern sport fishing.
“The Southern california community is looking forward to honoring our veterans, âexplained tournament director Rod Halperin. âUsually we start the tournament with a big fundraising event for 300 to 400 people, but we knew that this year we couldn’t organize this type of gathering, which led us to the idea to organize a parade of boats. “
Over the next 48 hours, the captains and crews had a special time with the veterans, sharing their knowledge of the waters, native fish species and the techniques they use to fish. Marcus C., (Bad Company), landed an impressive 218lb bluefin tuna, which was weighed on the iconic green pier in Port of Avalon to the great pleasure and surprise of dozens of Catalina Island tourists. Other exceptional catches included a 7.2 lb calico bass captured by Enrique S. (Sea Horse); a 15.1 lb halibut captured by Woody D. (Determined); a 26.2 lb sea bream captured by Drew M. (Sea Horse); a 28 lb yellowtail flounder captured by Steve F. (Play-N Hookey); a 37.4 lb redfish captured by Steve F. (Play-N Hookey); and a 61.2 lb yellowfin caught by Brent W. (Joint Venture). Matt R. (Adventure), Mike W. (Bad Company), Ryan B. (Dialed Inn) and Drew M. (Sea Horse) each captured and released a striped marlin.
The tournament ended with great pageantry, as the 12 yachts gathered outside Port of Avalon for a patriotic flight over vintage WWII airplanes.
“We are honored to celebrate and support the veterans community,” said Colby Durnin, owner of the joint venture. “It is a great pleasure for us to share our love of the sea and sport fishing with these true patriots, and to offer them experiences which give them a deep healing.”
“Very often what I hear most from the veterans I speak with as we plan these events are the words’ I think someone else deserves to be here more than me. “”, said Josh miles, Freedom Alliance director of military and charity programs. âThe veteran community is extremely humble. The outpouring of support and generosity that continues to come from Southern california community â and more specifically the sport fishing community â is unlike anything I’ve seen. This has been a particularly tough year for the Veterans community as a whole, and this event has meant the world for these men. “
On returning to newport beach, the veterans celebrated with an outdoor awards ceremony held on the lawn of the Newport Beach Country Club. The venue provided the privacy – and appropriate distance – essential to maintaining established health protocols for their safety. The joy of the weekend was clearly evident, and between the awards, the veterans continued to share stories, ideas and hugs, strengthening the bonds of friendship that will continue for years to come.
Was also present Julia morris, Student Ambassador for the Freedom Alliance 2020 scholarship. Virginie Tech with three specializations: sociology, criminology and psychology, Julia is one of 499 students currently receiving Freedom Alliance scholarships. She is the captain’s daughter James j morris, who died 20 years ago when his plane crashed in a training accident. Freedom Alliance is the charitable partner of War Heroes On Water.
âI am very grateful to have received a Freedom Alliance scholarship,â said Julia, âbecause it has helped me financially, but it has also put me in touch with a community of people who can relate to me and who have had a similar experience. I feel like I have a whole new family and a whole new support system, not only from the other students I have met, but also from the kind people who work at Freedom Alliance It also shows me that my father’s sacrifice will not be forgotten.
The most important price of the evening is the Ron ashimine Prize awarded to the best fisherman in the Tournament. The award is named for Ron ashimine, a longtime fisherman and veteran who passed away in 2019, and who holds a special place in the heart of SoCal’s sport fishing community.
This year’s winner, Drew M. (Sea Horse) had a special message that particularly resonated with all participants: âWe stand on the shoulders of men and women much taller than us. We need to remember this every day of our lives. Everything we do, every step we take, pay attention and know that people have sacrificed greater than we have; and that is why we are here today. “
Other awards: Enrique S. (Sea Horse), Calico Bass Division. Steve F. (Play-n Hookey), Rockfish Division. Woody D. (Determined), Halibut Division. Steve F. (Play-N Hookey), Yellowtail Division. Brent W. (Joint Venture), Yellowfin Division. Marcus C. (Bad Company), Bluefin Division. Drew M. (Seahorse), Dorado Division. Drew M. (Sea Horse), Matt R. (Adventure), Mike W. (Bad Company), Ryan B. (Dialed Inn), Marlin Division. First Qualified Angler: Brent. W. (Joint Venture). Fisherman qualified for second place: Drew M. (Hippocampe). Fisherman qualified for third place: Darren M., Donnie L. and Dirk L. (Shannon rose). First place weight division: Drew M. (Hippocampe). Second Weight Division: Brent W. (Joint Venture). Third Weight Division: Steve F. (Play-N Hookey). First prize for the best boat: Sea Horse. Second place Top Boat Award: Joint Venture. Third prize for the best boat: Play-n Hookey. Ron ashimine Best Angler Award: Drew M. (Hippocampe). Second Prize for Best Angler: Brent W. (Joint Venture). Third Prize for Best Angler: Steve F. (Play-n Hookey).
At the end of the event, the veterans returned home and the captains, crews and event organizers began to imagine what next year’s tournament experience might look like.
âThis tournament has the potential to become much bigger than anything we could have imagined,â said Hsieh. “And it’s all thanks to the dedication and heart shown by the sport fishing and SoCal communities.”
The WHOW 2020 tournament fleet includes: Bad company 75 (Anthony Hsieh); Adventure (Paul Lepore); Determined (Dan Gorman, Zac Cullen); Dialed Inn (Randy Pennington); Gad Zukes (Greg Zucchero); Incognito (Kevin Reardon); Joint venture (Colby Durnin); Motivator (Mark Mitchell); Play-n Hookey (Bill Larkin); Seahorse (Bruce ferguson); Shannon rose (Shaun keating); and wild in Bag (Marc heinz).
See photos and video coverage of the event on Facebook and Instagram and by visiting www.warheroesonwater.com.
About War Heroes on Water (WHO)
War Heroes on Water (WHOW) is an annual sport fishing tournament of unprecedented scale that supports programs for wounded veterans. It was conceptualized in 2018 by the founder and CEO of LoanDepot, Anthony Hsieh, who also owns and operates Team Bad Company, a world-class competitive sport fishing fleet holding records. Thanks to Hsieh’s deep ties to the Southern california sport fishing and business community, WHOW has grown exponentially, increasing $ 1 million for veterans since its inception.
About Freedom Alliance
Freedom Alliance has provided more than $ 16 million in scholarship assistance and supports the rehabilitation needs of wounded soldiers through Recreational Therapy Retreats, Hero Retreats, Mortgage-Free Homes and All Terrain Wheelchairs. Visit www.FreedomAlliance.org or www.facebook.com/FreedomAlliance.
SOURCE War Heroes on Water