When Troy Brown isn’t at Bayside Church on Sundays, you can usually find him deep underwater.
In his 41 years of diving below the surface, he’s seen a lot of beauty and a lot of garbage, from anchors caught under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge to seeing a turtle swimming in circles because of fishing line caught on its fin.
“We all feel passionately that if you go underwater or if you go to the shoreline, it should look like mankind hasn’t been there,” Brown said.
That’s why he and a group of divers have come up with a clean-up competition on land, sea and everywhere in between.
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The Suncoast Aqua-ventures’ Reef and Beach Clean-up competition will be held starting at 8 a.m. Nov. 5 at the Bradenton Yacht Club. Anyone interested in participating can sign up for free as individuals or register for $40 as a group of up to six people.
Only those who register as a group will be eligible for some serious cash prizes, from $500 in first place to $150 in third. Categories include most anchors collected; most metal recyclables; most non-metal recyclables; most tackle, nets and line; and most unique item found on land and underwater.
Everyone, even individuals, will get a raffle ticket for prizes including gift certificates. Tampa Bay Watch is providing gloves and trash bags.
Even Palmetto’s Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant is in on it.
“It’s just such a positive thing for the whole community,” she said. “It’s going to be exciting to see how much is brought back in.”
Groover Bryant said she was surprised to learn from the divers just how much trash is below the surface.
“It’s shocking to realize that ... people are careless in their boating endeavors,” she said. “They need to be more cautious for the future.”
Those who don’t have access to a boat can clean up shorelines and mangrove areas. Although clean-up can be anywhere, they want participants to focus on reefs from Sarasota County up to the Skyway, river shorelines, Terra Ceia Bay and Snead Island.
The first weigh-in will be from 3 to 5 p.m. that day. People can still collect as much trash as they can until the final weigh-in at the yacht club at 2 p.m. Nov. 6.
Proceeds from the event will go towards sea turtle research and rehabilitation efforts, an important cause for the organizers, and to hold events like this in the future to benefit other environmental causes.
For more information or to sign up, visit www.suncoastaquaventures.com.
If you go
What: Suncoast Aqua-Ventures reef and beach clean-up competition
When: Saturday, Nov. 5 at 8 a.m. to Sunday, Nov. 6 at 2 p.m.
How much: Free for individuals; $40 for groups up to six
Where: Meeting at Bradenton Yacht Club, 4307 13th St. W. in Palmetto, but collecting trash underwater or around beaches in Manatee and Sarasota counties