By Gavin Menu
The rising sun broke through clouds to light Montauk Point Saturday morning as 45 brave paddlers launched to the west of the lighthouse on an 18-mile open-ocean journey to Block Island.
Some were in kayaks, but most were on stand-up paddleboards, and all the participants in Saturday’s 2013 Block Challenge were there to support the local not-for-profit Paddlers for Humanity, which raises funds and awareness for nonprofit organizations focused on childhood development and education.
Over the last five years, Paddlers for Humanity (P4H) has raised and given away over $700,000 to a range of charities that includes East End food pantries, the East Hampton Daycare Learning Center, The Retreat, the Montauk Playhouse and many more. The P4H East End Catastrophic Fund continues to assist families and individuals who are struggling with financial or health challenges.
Added to that total will be at least $85,000, which is the estimated total raised from Saturday’s paddle, according to P4H Co-President Fred Doss.
“The good news is money is still coming in,” Doss said on Tuesday. “The minimum is to raise or give $1,500. A lot of people do significantly more. Several people were in the $3,000-$4,000 range and one person will do $20,000-$25,000.”
Doss said the Block Challenge is a unique event since there are not many paddles that travel 18 miles across open ocean, providing a huge challenge for even the most advanced paddlers.
“We have some hearty souls out there who say this is the best day of the year,” said Doss, who himself completed the paddle on Saturday. “Then for some others it’s a real challenge.”
Saturday’s paddle began early in the morning and in ideal conditions, with a 15-knot wind blowing out of the southeast and at the paddlers’ backs, with calm water, cloudy skies and temperatures in the low 70’s. Once in the open ocean, however, the winds picked up and wave heights were estimated to be 10 to 15 feet at times.
“A lot of the guys had those race boards, and at the start, they were flying,” said Mike Bahel, who owns the Body Tech gyms and was one of the 45 paddlers on Saturday. “I was on a big Laird board, which is so heavy and slow, but once we got out in the middle, some of those swells were high and my board was great. The race board guys were on their knees, but that big, heavy, fat board was key. Marty Ross was in a kayak and was riding some killer waves.”
The paddle in the past has taken over six hours to complete, but on Saturday the group arrived at Champlin’s Marina on Block Island in record time, just over five hours.
Ed Cashin, P4H’s other co-president, said before the race that the East Hampton Town Ocean Rescue team would be towing slower paddlers up front throughout the day so that the group could remain together. That, Cashin said, helped keep the paddle moving and also made for a safe environment.
“We will stay as a group, take four 10-minute breaks, and if anyone falls behind, we have the ocean rescue guys tow them up front,” Cashin said moments before the paddle began. “This is going to be the biggest paddle ever.”
And, as it turned out, it was the best one as well.
“It was really good,” Bahel said. “To me, it was perfect.”