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Fencing at the Beach: The Annual Sabre in the Surf Tournament in Tybee Island

Updated on November 26, 2014
Two fencers battling it out in the surf.
Two fencers battling it out in the surf.

Fencing is Tough, Especially at the Beach!

Fencing is an incredibly fun sport that captures the hearts of swashbuckler wannabes across the globe. The sport features three different weapons: foil, epee, and sabre. The sabre is the sword that Zorro used, and it's the designated weapon of one of the most fun fencing tournaments around: the Sabre in the Surf. Every July, the Savannah Fencing Club hosts this tournament which requires that fencers face not only a sword wielding opponent, but also the elements. The event takes place on Tybee Island, and it gets pretty hot in July.

In the first round of this tournament, fencers bout in the sand. That may sound easy enough, but in a sport where excellent footwork is key, the resistance of the loose sand really changes the game. A lot of fencers talk about "feeling" the weapon, or "using the force" rather than relying on sight to figure out where to put the blade. Well, when you're fencing on the beach, you had better be skilled at "using the force" because the glaring sun reflecting off of the white sand really throws a wrench into the game.

The second round, which introduces the direct elimination bouts, moves into the water. Fencers must face off in ankle-deep surf. This can actually be very welcome after the hot sand of the first round. Getting eliminated in this tournament can be a bit of a relief because it gets hot fast in those fencing jackets.

As the rounds progress, the fencers must move further out into the water. Typically, by the time the bout for first place comes around, fencers are waste deep in the ocean and are at the mercy of the waves. Footwork is almost completely out of the question at this point, so if you intend to be successful in this competition, your blade-work should be top-notch!

Fencing isn't a Spectator Sport? It is Now.

One of the biggest criticisms of sport fencing is that it requires a fencing-literate audience. Generally, only other fencers really enjoy watching fencing. The movements are incredibly fast, the blades are thin and difficult to see, the directors officiating often speak French and make hand signals only understood by fencers. The International Fencing Federation (FIE) and the U.S. Fencing Association have made numerous changes to the sport in the last ten years or so specifically aimed at making fencing more spectator friendly. The Savannah Fencing Club has done an excellent job of making fencing a little bit more fun, exciting, and watchable for the non-fencer. Beach-goers on Tybee Island seem to love watching the bouts take place in the surf. If you're interested in the sport, this is definitely a trip to the beach worth taking!


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