Miami Beach is known for lots of things – its turquoise ocean, its sun-soaked climate, its spectacular, beckoning sand.
But once a year it also hosts top-level showjumping when the Longines Global Champions Tour rides into town.
And right on the beach, yards from the lapping water, a temporary arena showcases the best riders and horses in the sport.
The unique stadium features 2,000 tons of bespoke sand, which is mixed with special fibers and laid about 12 centimeters (five inches) deep on a hard base to provide optimum conditions for the athletes to excel.
“It’s one of the most difficult competitions in terms of organization and logistics because we have to build everything on top of the existing sand on the beach,” said LGCT sports director Marco Danese.
READ: Devos triumphs in eight-rider jump-off in Miami
The unrivaled waterside backdrop brings in about 12,000 spectators over the course of three days of competition, featuring the Global Champions League team event and the Global Champions Tour Grand Prix stop.
In order to grow the popularity of show jumping, entry is free, both in the grandstand and for bikini-clad beachgoers to watch from the ocean side.
“It’s nice to see people not familiar with our sport stopping here and being really surprised to see the best horses and best riders in the world. It is something special and unique,” adds Danese.
READ: Global Champions 2019: Schedule and results
Longines Global Champions Tour 2019 season in photos
Setting up the event is a team effort involving 30 local businesses. The stadium takes about 10 days to build, while 3,500 bales of shavings, 10 tons of hay and 13 tons of horse feed are also required.
This year’s GCT event was won by Pieter Devos – his first victory since 2014 – on 11-year-old Belgian horse Claire Z.
Belgium’s Devos triumphed at the end of an eight-rider jump-off, finishing just 0.04 seconds quicker than former LGCT overall winner Harrie Smolders.
Among those in the star-studded crowd was rock icon Bruce Springsteen and his wife Patti and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, watching their daughters Jessica Springsteen and Jennifer Gates competing.
“It gives me a super feeling to enter the arena and see the sea,” Devos told the Global Champions Tour website. “It’s the best of the world here and that’s why I am so happy with my mare. I am so lucky.”
The Miami Celtics team of Irish duo Michael Duffy and Shane Breen produced a double clear on Saturday to win the GCL event.
Jan Tops, the founder and president of LGCT, said: “It is important for LGCT to be in the American market. America is a great horse nation.
“This is such a vibrant place. This is what the Tour is about, each week it is different. If you win the circuit you are an all round champion.”
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The Global Champions Tour, show jumping’s richest circuit, consists of a record 20 stops in 2019, including new venues in New York, Montreal and Stockholm.
The season will finish with the GC Prague Playoffs November 21-24.