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Thanksgiving In Paradise

Growing up in a sleepy Southern California beach town, my friends and I had a Thanksgiving day ritual. If the weather was good—and it usually was—we headed to the strand for a friendly game of touch football. More often than not, “touch” turned to “tackle” on the first play. Visits to the emergency room, always a hoot during the holidays, were not unheard of.

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For one offshore racer and his family, Key West is the only place to be for Turkey Day. Photo courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

We all have our Thanksgiving rituals, right? Mine has morphed into a morning mountain bike ride if weather allows—and it usually does—followed by a full day of eating, drinking and watching football on TV with friends and family.

Ryan Beckley, a veteran offshore racer and a good friend, of Sarasota, Fla., and his family, have a ritual of their own. They head for Key West.

The tradition started in 2011, the year that saw three racers—Joey Gratton, Bob Morgan and JT Tillman—die following accidents to during the Super Boat International Key West Offshore World Championships. Though Gratton and Beckley were longtime friends and Beckley went on to build a New Year’s Day fun run in his honor, all three deaths hit him hard.

Read More: Thanksgiving In Paradise

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