Stand-up paddleboarding has been growing in popularity in recent years and those looking to get a crash course on the sport, or searching for some fresh competition, will have a new race series in East Hampton to look forward to this summer.
Paddlers for Humanity, an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) local non-profit that raises funds and awareness for other organizations that focus on children and youth, have put together four races this season that should be fun for all walks of life.
First up in the series is the Main Beach Surf + Sport SUP Race for Humanity on Sunday, June 16, where paddlers will enter a 6-mile surf zone from the beach and then follow a downwind course to the finish line. The race is limited to 50 participants and registration costs $50.
Lars Svanberg, the owner of Main Beach Surf Shop in Wainscott, holds a number of paddling events each year, but it will be just the second year he’s teamed up with Paddlers for Humanity.
“We’ve sold over thousands of paddleboards—people really love them,” he said. “Families buy them. They’re very versatile and can be used in flat water or for riding waves.
“Our event, though, is a stand-up paddling race in open ocean,” Svanberg explained. “It’s an ocean beach race, not a bay beach race, and it’s what we call ‘a downwinder,’ where you’re following the wind, not going against the wind.”
The race spans from Beach Lane to Indian Wells Beach, approximately 7 miles. “We’ve done this race last year but we didn’t do it in the ocean, we did it in the bay,” Svanberg said. “So, people will need more skills of getting in and out of the surf zone. Hopefully, the waves aren’t going to be too big.”
The second race on the circuit is the Swim-Paddle-Run Fun Race at Maidstone Park in East Hampton on Saturday, July 13. The course includes a half-mile swim, a 1-mile stand-up paddleboard leg and a 1.5-mile run. Entry for each three-person team is $300.
Fred Doss, the co-president of Paddlers for Humanity along with Ed Cashin, said this is the first year that the charity is doing the fun race.
“We thought it would be a good way to shake it up a little bit,” he said. “We’re clearly billing it as a fun race with short distances. What’s great is that you can have one person do a certain leg of the event, so if one person wants to paddle and then one person wants to run, they can do that.”
The signature event of the series, the Block Island Challenge, is not for the beginner paddler. It’s an 18-mile open ocean paddle set for Saturday, August 3, beginning at 6:30 a.m.
Paddlers will begin at the north side of the Montauk Lighthouse and end at Champlin’s Marina on Block Island, Rhode Island. Paddlers are asked to raise or contribute $1,500; those age 18 and younger are asked to raise $750. A catered lunch will follow the event and a return ferry ride to Montauk will be provided, courtesy of the Block Island Ferry.
“This is really how Paddlers for Humanity began,” Doss said of the Block Island Challenge. “It’s not for the beginner, but that’s not to say that a person in good shape couldn’t complete it.
“It’s not a race,” he continued. “It’s very communal and a real group effort. And we’ll be totally supported by support boats and ocean rescue will be on hand. It’s 18 miles through open ocean, though, so there will need to be some sort of fitness level to do that.”
Then on Sunday, August 25, the series wraps up with the Wahine Women and Girl’s Paddle, a 3-mile race that will take place at Big Albert’s Beach on Gardiner’s Bay in East Hampton. Wahine is the Hawaiian word for “woman,” so only females can participate. Each paddler must raise or contribute $300; the fee is reduced to $125 for those 18 and younger.
Doss said Paddlers for Humanity typically raises $100,000 every summer, so that will continue to be the charity’s goal this summer. Some things have changed though. Instead of spreading the funds to a handful of charities, organizers will instead focus on one or two charities, though Doss said a decision has not been made yet on which ones.
“Everything that we do, all of the money we have raised, has always been directed to better the lives of children and youth,” he said. “And that could be in education, wellness, economic/poverty issues. All of the money will definitely go to bettering the lives of children and youths in a very sustainable and authentic way.”
For more information on Paddlers for Humanity, and to register for the races, go to www.p4h.org.