The Gold Coast Marathon: Sam Griffiths’ Dream

In the years after the end of World War Two, Sam Griffiths, owner of the Pelican Harbor Yacht Club and a power boat enthusiast himself, organized the ultimate power boat race, the Gold Coast Marathon, which ran in the Intracoastal Waterway from his Club just south of the 79th Street Causeway to West Palm Beach, returning to Miami the next day.  The Marathon ran from the late 1940’s to the early 1970’s.  Some of the hydroplanes approached 100 mph, many averaging 50 mph to 60 mph, reaching West Palm Beach in an hour.

Contestants in the Gold Coast Marathon off-loading their hydroplanes and other power boats
Contestants in the Gold Coast Marathon off-loading their hydroplanes and other power boatshydroplanes approached 100 mph, with average speeds from 50 mph to 60 mph, reaching WPB in one hour.

In later years, the danger of hundreds of boats in thirteen classes running in the Intracoastal led to fatality and injuries, forcing Griffiths, a three-time winner, to move the event to an oval course at the sleek, ultramodern Miami Marine Stadium.  Even running on an oval course led to the death of a world class Italian driver. Ultimately the race’s danger coupled with the diminished novelty of the event over the years led to its ending.

Today, a group of preservationists has formed a nonprofit corporation seeking to restore the ultramodern Miami Marine Stadium to its former glory. But for now, the rusty Stadium bears the years of abuse along with the usual graffiti of an abandoned structure.  In the opinion of the author, the Stadium’s restoration is a worthwhile project. The architecture is significant of the very best in modern south Florida architecture.  It deserves restoration to its former beauty along with its interpretation and preservation for the enjoyment and education of present and future generations.

William G. Crawford, Jr., Esq.

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