For the Fun of it

Originally Appeared in Poker Runs America 6-4.

By Michelle May-Schmidt. 

Women have always played a prominent and active role in the offshore poker run and race circuits.  More often than not, the underlying reason for joining what has traditionally been a male-dominated sport has little to do with winning titles or awards.  These “Women in Power” simply enjoy performance boating.  Some of these “girls” also want to have a little competitive fun.

Like Lisa Beilman, a relative newcomer to the world of offshore racing.  Encouraged by a friend just a few years ago, she soon discovered her passion for power on the water.  Today, she is the driver for the offshore race team, Christie’s Photographics.

Beilman was born in Chicago.  When she was two years old, her parents (Barbara – now Cimbura and Bill) decided to move to Colorado. The youngest of three children (brother Eric and sister Kat Connoly), her “need for speed” was clearly evident from the start.

Lisa’s need for speed was evident at an early age, when she took to the power of the motocross track.

“I was into anything that could go fast,” she said, admitting that she preferred to spend her time on the motocross track, rather than skiing.

Beilman graduated in 1986 and joined the firm of Blinder-Robinson, where she registered brokers for state licenses.  Shortly after, she decided to move to Miami.  Still possessed by a penchant for power, Beilman spent her weekends on the ¼-mile track, racing Corvettes and “riding shotgun” with her girlfriend in truck series competition.

Around 1988, Beilman visited her sister in Orlando and fell in love with the area.  She has been there ever since.  After finding employment in the retailing business, she landed an administrative position handling accounts receivables with Dr. Ira Shafran, a well known Orland-based gastroenterologist.

“This is my 12th year with Dr. Ira,” said Beilman, who, in addition to her job, is also a full-time student. “I am going for my Master’s Degree in counseling at Rollin, in Winter Park.  Once I get y degree, I hope to work out of his office to help our patients.  I am also very interested in forensics, and plan to work in that field as well.”

Beilman readily admits that a future in forensics, studying how the criminal mind works, could prove to be emotionally stressful, but she also finds the field highly intriguing and challenging.  It is also a passion she likes to share with the man in her life, Bob Christie.

Lisa Beilman credits Bob Christie for introducing her to offshore racing during a Toys for Tots Poker Run

“We met in September of 2001, right after 9/11.  I was to do a triathlon at Disney World to raise money for breast cancer, and Bob was going to New York for a powerboat race,” she says.

“For some reason, he didn’t go.  My girlfriend called to tell me I had to come to her cookout, that bob was going to be there.  To be honest, it was pouring down rain; I was in the process of moving and planned to cancel, but for some reason, when she called, I said OK.  It must’ve been fate because after I met him, that was it!”

Bob Christie, owner of the photographic studio and the well-known offshore race boat bearing his name, invited Lisa along for a Toys for Tots Poker Run that November.  He also offered to let her drive the boat.  At first, Lisa declined, but with a little more insistence Bob managed to get her behind the wheel.  That’s when she became hooked.

Lisa and Bob

“I went to see Bob race the Alehouse/Christie’s Photographics Factory Class boat (F1-23) in both St. Pete and the first Key West race in 2001.  With the impending threat of a hurricane, we all had to leave and come back when the conditions were safer.  Unfortunately, due to my school and my work schedule, I couldn’t make it back.  It was pretty disappointing.  It was the end of the season.”

It was also the end of Bob Christie’s Alehouse sponsorship, which was canceled after 9/11 but carried over through the end of that year.  However, it was the beginning of Lisa Beilman’s career as an offshore racer.”

Bob asked Lisa to become his driver, a position she has maintained throughout the 2002 season, and again this year, for Christie’s Photographics (P4-13, a Performance Class Contender).

“Chip Johnson, the guy who used to race with Bob, told me I would love rough water, and I thought he was crazy.  When I tried it in Daytona, it was definitely fun! It’s such an adrenaline rush…it’s awesome!”

The couple finished the race in seas cresting above seven feet and took home the 2002 championships title.  Beilman was also selected as the 2002 OPBRA Rookie of the Year.

What is even more rewarding and enjoying to her, however, is competing with a large number of fellow racers and friends.

It’s all a matter of teamwork. John Chstie, mechanic Carlos Gonzales, Bob Christie, Lisa Beilman, Dina Ford and Jim Spitzer pose with P4-13, their Performance Class contender

Going deck to deck against Dr. Santiago in P4 Class in Key West, she said, was one of her most memorable moments to date.

“We were in first when we broke.  We almost had him.  That was such a fun race!” said Beilman, pointing out that she and Bob raced Key West in support of their then hospitalized friend (and Lisa’s co-worker), John Decker.  “He is doing great now.”

Although Bob and Lisa race in the APBA Offshore Circuit, they decided not to compete for National points in Pro Grade. Depending on work and school schedules, competing in Performance Class allows them to pick and choose events they want to attend.  Like many performance outlaw boaters today, this suits them just fine.  After all, they just want to have fun.

“Probably not,” was Beilman’s first response when asked if she had any interest in moving up a class.

“I like our class.  It’s fun.  It’s competitive on a friendly level.  It’s affordable; the time frame fits. We really prefer staying and competing in the Southeast, so it’s very convenient as well.”

While the well-grounded “girl who wants to have fun” still has one more year of bookwork schooling and internship, life is smooth sailing for the couple.  They’re currently building a home in Oakland, Florida, on Lake Apopka, which they will share with their dog, Skooter and a cat named Monkey.

“We really love our life, our home and our friends and family.  What more can anyone ask for?”

Beilman, who drives a Honda Prelude she refers to as her “little go-cart,” said she is on the track every day. “Somedays it’s on water, other days it’s on the pavement.”

As for her ultimate destination, well, she’s made it clear that she’s on track there, too.  It’s the journey she enjoys most.  She is definitely proud to be one of the few women racing in offshore.  “I think it’s a great sport.”

Lisa and Bob pose with their winning hardware

Beilman admitted she wouldn’t mind winning a title on the offshore circuit.

“Victory is great, but I enjoy racing, one race at a time.”

“Graduating from Rollins will be great,” she said, adding that she looks forward to a career in the field of forensics.

On a scale of one to 10, Beilman rates her life as a 12.

“I’m very happy, very content, very fulfilled, very challenged, and I love the sport I am in.”

Lisa Beilman is exemplary of today’s “Women in Power.” To her, it’s not a matter of trophies or checkered flags. It has everything to do with the love of performance boating, the people that you meet and the friends you make, which definitely puts her at the head of the class.