Maritime Throwdown founder Kenny Brown, center, with the competitors from the Houston regional competition at San Jacinto College’s maritime campus.

Maritime Throwdown Finals To Be Held In Nashville At IMX

Since 2017, the Maritime Throwdown (MTD), founded by Capt. Kenny Brown, has promoted safety, professionalism and line-handling excellence on the inland waterways. What started as a small-yet-lively event almost five years ago at the Lamar Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, La., has grown into a thriving community of mariners from all around the country—and a growing collection of partner companies—who are all committed to safety and excellence and to crew members learning their craft.

And the competition is still fierce.

This year, MTD has placed three regional qualifiers on the calendar, with the final event to be held at the Inland Marine Expo (IMX) in Nashville May 31–June 2. A regional qualifier took place earlier this month in Houston, with two more to follow in Paducah, Ky., on April 15 and in New Orleans on April 22.

“The Houston event was hosted at San Jacinto College’s maritime campus, with Martin Marine providing lunch,” Brown said. “We had four scores put on the leader board.”

Mariners compete on a course that combines line-handling, line-throwing and life-saving skills. The course is made up of the following eight challenges or obstacles, which can be tackled in any order: securing a line on a D-ring, a two-part tie off to a ship hook, a single-part to an extended pile, a two-part fair lead to a kevel, a three-part high-low between timberheads, a single-part to a vertical kevel, a three-part to a crucifix bit and retrieving a stationary line with a pipe pull. In addition, competitors have to demonstrate the ability to tie three knots: a bowline, a double becket and a new alpine butterfly. Finally, they have to “suitcase” their working line and swap a work vest for a Type I life vest.

2022 Maritime Throwdown champion Anthony Pettry of Amherst Madison hefts the winner’s trophy, which was created by Nabrico/Wintech/Arcosa. (Photo by Lauren Gosling)
2022 Maritime Throwdown champion Anthony Pettry of Amherst Madison hefts the winner’s trophy, which was created by Nabrico/Wintech/Arcosa. (Photo by Lauren Gosling)

Like in golf, the lowest score wins. The technical parts of the course are pass-fail, with pass earning zero points and a fail earning three points. Each knot is worth up to three points, depending on execution.

“The best possible score is 10, and we’ve had a perfect score,” Brown said, noting that Businelle Towing Company’s Brennan Templet notched that score. “Anything below 20 is a really good score, and knowing your knots is really important.”

Competitors are timed, with course time serving as the tiebreaker.

At the Houston qualifier, deckhand Leighton Loveless recorded the best score with a 17. Loveless will have to watch the outcomes to see if he makes it to the final competition at IMX, though. Competitors with the top three scores from the Houston, Paducah and New Orleans qualifiers will make it to Nashville. In addition, the top three competitors from MTD’s 2022 season automatically qualify for the IMX final competition.

Brown said he expects up to 15 mariners to compete at both the Paducah and New Orleans qualifiers. This year, MTD is targeting deckhands in particular, although Brown said he would love to add divisions for students and wheelmen next year.

UMC Marine, a manufacturer of commercial marine deck hardware, has put up $10,000 in prize money for the winner of this year’s competition.

More Than A Competition

While MTD will continue to hold its regional qualifiers and final competitions, the organization is much more than that, Brown said. Companies are bringing in Brown and the MTD trailer-mounted course for deckhand training days, with Baton Rouge, La.-based Businelle Towing, New Orleans-based Wood Resources, Harvey, La.-based Quality First Marine and Ledbetter, Ky.-based Barge Transfer Services partnering with MTD of late.

“They bring us in for a full day of safety and line-handling training,” Brown said.

Feeding off of the online community within the maritime industry, MTD has also garnered a passionate following on social media, where mariners can show off their skills and virtually compete with one another.

Looking toward the future, Brown said he envisions MTD growing into a hybrid, membership-based organization. In addition to the in-person training days and competitions, MTD will eventually offer online training and community as well. MTD has already attracted a dedicated and driven community of mariners, and Brown said that same community will be a key part of the success of MTD’s online work to train, retain and recruit members of the industry.

“We want to recruit the next generation of mariners,” Brown said. “The bottom line is our mission is to help make the inland waterways better.”

In doing so, he believes MTD will be meeting a real need in the maritime industry today: offering training to mariners to promote safety and excellence on the deck. That’s the same mission as five years ago, but today it’s especially critical, Brown said, given the labor shortages many towing companies are facing.

“I want every mariner to have the same access to training because their safety really depends on it, and Maritime Throwdown can be the catalyst for that,” he said.For more information on MTD or to learn more about membership or ways to support the organization, email Brown at