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Commentary: Secret Santas Of The Go-Fast Boating World

Though neither Jason Johnson nor I have worked in a traditional office setting for a very long time—almost 20 years in my case and about 10 years for my speedonthewater.com co-publisher—we remember the experience. Tedious, time-sucking meetings. Simple editorial decisions made complicated by committee. Endless distraction and interruption.

Really bad coffee and the late-afternoon smell of burned, really bad coffee.

With the 95-boat 2020 Rus Matos Toys Tour, the ultimate Secret Santa gift-collection event continued this year. Photo by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

If you haven’t already guessed, we don’t miss any of the traditional office trappings. Except one.

Secret Santa.

You know, the annual holiday office/family game where each person is assigned to buy a gift for another. Yes, it’s inherently awkward, but with the right group—irreverent, joyful, goofy and not averse to good-natured teasing and truly tacky gifts—Secret Santa can be a blast.

The high-performance powerboating community has its own versions of Secret Santas. But they work at it year-round.

They are the Ron Duggans of the world, the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout producer whose organizing efforts this year helped garner $400,000 worth of donations for local charities. They are Alexandra Buduson, Bobby Cantwell, Renee and Ken Lalonde and Courtney Rutherford of the 1,000 Islands Charity Poker Run organizing committee, who will return next year to help grant wishes for chronically ill children.

They are John Woodruff, the affable Georgian who keeps picking up the dinner tab at the annual Super Cat Fest/Lake of the Ozarks Shootout Charity Auction to inspire his fellow performance-boating fans to dig a little deeper.

Thanks to his annual Toys Tour event in Palatka, Fla., the late Rus Matos may well have been the ultimate Secret Santa of the go-fast boating world. Thanks to his son, Louie, Scott McCormick and Walt Braithwaite of Velocity Powerboats and a slew of longtime supporters, the event lives on.

In 2021, the 1,000 Islands Charity Poker Run will return to grant wishes for seriously ill children. Photo by Tim Sharkey copyright Sharkey Images.

They are the givers in our world, the likes of Lucy Nicandri in Sarasota, Fla., who, faced with a budget shortfall for Suncoast Charities for Children created by this year’s cancellation of the Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix, pivoted and created another event that raised $50,000 for the charity. They are Yvonne Aleman and Greg Harris of South Florida, who raise money for Camp Amigo through their annual Jacksonville River Rally and Poker Run in Northern Florida, as well as for Samuel’s House through their work with us on the annual Speed On The Water Key West Bash.

They are Trond Schou, Nils Johnsen and company at Nor-Tech Hi-Performance Powerboats in Fort Myers, Fla., who went into the safety mask production and acquisition business this year and continued their pandemic relief efforts with ongoing food drives, as well as a toy drive earlier this month.

They’ll all be back—and giving back—in 2021.

So here’s to the real Secret Santas, the ones who couldn’t stop giving if they wanted to. We wish them, and all of you, a very Merry Christmas.

The Secret Santas of Nor-Tech.

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