Photos and Words by Erick Bryner - Firedrill Productions

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Its Monday afternoon, and the 2016 San Diego Bayfair has come to an end. If you?ve never been to Bayfair, I regret to tell you that you've been missing a really good time. If you HAVE been, then you know how much fun it is - three full days of boat racing, barbecue, beer gardens on the beach. Even if you've never been to Bayfair, but have been to Mission Bay, then you should offer a great big thanks, in posterity, to the late Bill Muncey. That's because if it weren't for the vision of Bill Muncey, San Diego's Mission Bay wouldn't even exist.

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You see, in 1958, he envisioned the racecourse on what used to be marshland and proposed the idea of Mission Bay Park to city organizers as a way of bringing the races, and their associated revenue to the area. The city agreed with the concept and promptly began dredging. The first Unlimited Hydroplane Races were held in 1964, and have continued every year since.

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I've been attending the San Diego Bayfair regularly since 2007, and I didn't know anything about this interesting piece of San Diego history until this weekend. As I stationed myself along the shoreline I found myself parked next to the usual crews of party people you would normally find at this kind of event. In this case, it was Tom Brunner, owner of Brunner Motorsports. A super nice guy, and long time sponsor of the event, we struck up some small talk about the racing action and he proceeded to educate me on the history of Bayfair and Mission Bay in general. He himself has been going to Bayfair for 23 years and has set up his party compound on the same campsite every single year. At one point, he was even responsible in part for bringing the Offshore Boat Racing contingent to the weekend festivities. They haven't raced here in several years now, but that doesn't appear to have bothered him. His prime piece of beach front real estate was dialed in with everything needed to maximize a good time, and nobody in his camp seemed to miss it.

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As a motorsports photographer, I don't always get to enjoy these events the way an average spectator does. I get so wrapped up in getting "the shot" that I spend most of the day lugging around heavy cameras, bulky tripods, or backpacks full of gear, chasing the racer's around the racecourse looking for that perfect spot to shoot from. That's not to say that I don't get to enjoy them at all, because truth is I love doing it. Its my passion That's why I'm there. Even if I wasn't getting paid to do it, I would most likely be doing it anyway. But that's MY way of enjoying the races. Don't get me wrong, I still have a few beers and shoot the bull, but most of the time I've got my eye stuffed in the viewfinder of my Nikon, waiting for the next lap.

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The good news for me, though, is that I've met other poor souls with this same affliction, so I'm not alone. Really great photographer's and all around good guys like Daren VanRyte with OC Photographics, and Scott Shanklin with Stryderphoto share the same desire to record the event rather than experience it in real time. Like me, they don't do it for the money (because trust me, nobody is getting rich).

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They just get a rush out of capturing that epic shot and sharing it with fellow racing fans to help perpetuate their favorite sports. Believe me, when you like, comment or respond to them in some way, that's our real currency.

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Bayfair literally has something for everyone. In fact, this year I brought my good friends Javier and Tina who are from Costa Rica and have never been to any kind of major boat racing event. I talked them into giving it a try and boy did they make the best of it. They are naturally friendly people so I felt okay leaving them alone on the beach while I was out shooting. Occasionally I would stop in and check on them, and each time the crowd of people they were partying with would grow. By the end of the day, they had made personal friendships with one of the H1 teams and were invited by several different racing teams to sit in the cockpits of the boats and hang out with them in the pits. I don't know if it was their natural exuberance, or that the teams were just having a good weekend, but I think it's a testament to the overall camaraderie of the boating community.

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In recent years, I've even noticed that the promoters have made it even more spectator friendly by allowing fans to take a dip in the bay between races. That's great, because sitting on that beautiful beach on a 90 degree is no easy task. By allowing people to jump in the water for a quick cool down, I think it will help grow the attendance because it won't seem like such a long day in the sun. If you can find some relief, although brief, in the cool water of Mission Bay then you're more likely to want to go spend all day at the event. This small little "gimme" made it a fun, comfortable day for everyone. And I can guarantee that fans will consider this when deciding to buy tickets next year.

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If you've never been to Bayfair, I highly recommend it. Whether you're a racer, a sponsor, a spectator, photographer or one of the many volunteers it takes to produce this Bayfair event, we all have our own way of enjoying it. 42 years after his vision, I have a feeling Bill Muncey would approve of his legacy continueing on year after year. For those that haven't been yet, here's a few more pics of what you have been missing!
Unil next weekend... Stay safe, and happy boating.

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To view all of the pictures or purchase prints please visit Fire Drill productions by clicking HERE

To see what our members are saying about this event, please visit the thread in the forums that can be found HERE

Erick Bryner Fire Drill Productions