War Heroes on the Water returned to Newport Beach for the fifth annual charitable fishing tournament to raise money in support of combat-wounded veterans with a three-day on-the-water fishing experience hosted by a crew of experienced anglers.
NEWPORT BEACH— War Heroes on the Water concluded its fifth annual event which took place Sept. 23-27. A fleet of more than 50 yachts hosted 125 veterans for the three-day on the water experience.
Veterans received a hero’s welcome upon arrival at the Newport Beach kick-off reception on Sept. 24, where they gathered with captains, crews, and supporters. At the event, Tom Kilgannon, President of Freedom Alliance, WHOW’s philanthropic partner, and WHOW founder Anthony Hsieh shared words about our nation’s heroes before country music star Tyler Rich performed an acoustic set.
“All of this is for these brave men and women—all the spirit, all the effort, all the donations—it’s all for you,” said Hsieh. “In harnessing the healing power of the open ocean, as well as of the close friendships formed on board, we hope to continue making an impact on the lives of our veterans and their families.”
Following the kick-off festivities, Tournament Director Rod Halperin joined Hsieh on the dock to send off 125 veteran participants, a record for the tournament, many of whom have received some of our nation’s highest military decorations, including the Silver Star and Bronze Star Medals and the Purple Heart. This year’s WHOW fleet included more than 50 vessels, each donated to the tournament by SoCal residents, some participating for the fifth year in a row.
Freedom Alliance scholarship recipient Haley Nicole Taylor sang a rendition of the National Anthem as the Orange County Honor Guard presented the American flag. Then, before heading out to sea, the WHOW fleet paraded around the Newport Harbor.
A silent auction took place on Sept. 24, provided by volunteers and donors. The auction generated more than $200,000. WHOW raised over $1 million for this year’s event and $5 million total since its inception. The money raised supports thousands of veterans through Freedom Alliance’s year-round therapeutic services and scholarships for combat-wounded service members and their families.
On board the boats, Southern California fishermen shared their knowledge of local waters and expert fishing techniques to teach veterans how to catch a bite. Each crew fished for ranking points and trophies across various categories.
The WHOW fleet gathered on Sept. 26 at 5 p.m. outside Avalon Harbor for the tournament’s closing ceremonies, which include a flyover of vintage WWII aircrafts. Crews with catches over 100 pounds gathered at Catalina’s iconic Green Pier to partake in the tournament’s weigh-in festivity, which was live streamed on YouTube.
“The conditions on the water were not ideal this weekend, but our veterans fished hard,” said Tournament Director and WHOW Captain Rod Halperin in a press release from Sept. 27. “The teams really put in the effort, and it paid off as we saw a wide variety of fish come into the pier today. Beyond fishing, SoCal’s captains and crews showed up in record numbers for our veterans. It was truly unbelievable.”
Once the catches were weighed, the fleet returned to Newport Beach for an awards ceremony at the Lyon Air Museum Tuesday, Sept. 27.
Retired Marine Corps Corporal Larry Draughn placed first in qualifier points and third in the “Top Angler” category. Another honorable mention was awarded to Army Veteran Mea Peterson, who finished in second place in the “Weight Points” category aboard El Cazador, reeling in 210.3 pounds of Bluefin and Yellowfin Tuna. For her second WHOW, Peterson was one of six female veterans who joined this year’s tournament.
Twenty trophies were awarded during the celebration, including awards for species, qualifying points, weight points, overall points, and top boat.
- Brent Woodward aboard Bad Company 75
- Thomas Pacheco aboard Game On
- Larry Draughn aboard Zoriana
- Game On
- Bad Company 75
- Brent Woorward aboard Bad Company 75
- Wayne Taylor aboard Play N Hookey
- Jeff Duarte aboard Bottom Line
Calico Bass: Aaron May aboard Aquila
Rockfish: Wayne Taylor aboard Play N Hookey
Halibut: Aaron May aboard Aquila
Yellowtail: Larry Draughn aboard Zoriana
Yellowfin Tuna: Brent Woodward aboard Bad Company 75
Bluefin Tuna: Brent Woodward aboard Bad Company 75
Dorado: Wayne Taylor aboard Play N Hookey
Marlin: Jack Graham aboard Kea Kai