The multisport beach event is designed to be a tune-up for competitors in the U.S. Lifesaving Association Southeast Regional championships.

For the next couple of days, Flagler Beach will be one of the safest places around to take a dip in the ocean.

The inaugural Coquina Cup, a lifesaving skills competition with more than 160 registered competitors, kicked off Thursday and runs through Saturday with a variety of races and events on tap.

Created by the Flagler County Tourist Development Office, the event is designed to be a tune-up for competitors in the U.S. Lifesaving Association Southeast Regional championships.

"It's been a goal for a long time to create a multisport beach festival," said Matt Dunn, executive director at the county's tourism office. "Additionally, we're hoping that some of the proceeds can benefit (Flagler Beach recreation director) Tom Gillin's Flagler Beach ocean rescue effort. They lack some equipment they need for surf racing and we're hoping to make sure that changes."

Dunn said the impetus for the Coquina Cup came when Flagler County hosted the 2015 U.S. Lifesaving Association Southeast Regional championships. That event will return to Flagler Beach in July.

While a few wrinkles delayed the start of the first event Thursday morning, Dunn said those kind of things are to be expected.

"We would have had the course set up a couple of days ago, But we had some lightning, high winds and strong current," said Dunn, who also serves as event director. "We'll make it work. You've got to be flexible."

Kaitlin Whited from Jacksonville Beach wasn't bothered by the delay. Making an adjustment to her paddle board before testing the waters, she was eager for the competition to get underway. 

"The swells just picked up so I am stoked," she said. "It's our first competition of the year, so I'm excited to get the dust off and compete."

Also excited about the three-day event was Kenny Davis, co-owner of Saltwater Hippie, an apparel and surf shop in Madeira Beach, and a partner with Flagler County in the Coquina Cup.

Davis said he met Dunn at a Surf Expo event and was immediately interested in the Coquina Cup idea.

"They approached us and we love what they're doing," Davis said. "We love Flagler and have been here on vacation so it was a great excuse to come back."

Dunn said the event is designed to start small and grow organically from year to year.

"We do plan to add activities but we don't want to have a footprint that will overwhelm our destination or our resources," Dunn said. "We want this to become an annual staple within our event and festival portfolio."

Competition is schedued from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day of the event, with an awards ceremony set for Saturday afternoon.

More information is avaiable online at coquinacup.com.