Though last year’s event was canceled due to poor weather conditions, the 2013 version of the Block Island Challenge, hosted by Paddlers for Humanity, went off without a hitch on Saturday morning. The annual event is the biggest in the Paddlers for Humanity summer series, having raised $620,000 since 2004.
Paddlers began Saturday morning’s challenge at the north side of the Montauk Lighthouse and finished the 18-mile voyage at the end of Champlin’s Marina on Block Island, Rhode Island. There were 45 participants: 39 stand-up paddlers, four kayakers and two prone paddlers, who use something akin to a surfboard, but it is made for people who paddle on their stomachs and propel themselves forward.
Fred Doss, the co-president of Paddlers for Humanity, along with Ed Cashin, said there was a wide disparity in the ages of the participants, with 15-year-olds joining the group, as well as a 60-year-old. Conditions were a little rough, though, Doss said.
“The good news was that the wind was behind our backs, and we got there in a great time of just over five hours, which is fast for us,” he said. “We’re usually there in seven or eight hours.
“The difficult part was that the swells were very high,” he added. “But we felt totally safe out there. There were three support boats. Ocean rescue was out with us. There were two jet-skis, and they were fantastic, not only in offering encouragement, but if someone was lagging behind, they would help them out. Truly a remarkable group of people who came out and donated their time.”
Doss thanked a number of people who made sure the safety of the participants was first. They incuded Dan and Sue Farnham, Tom O’Donoghue, Steve McMahon, Rich Kalbacher, Robbie Lambert and Steve Brierley.
Doss said that Paddlers for Humanity was still counting the funds that were raised over the weekend, and that he expects more donations to be added this week, but he thinks the final number to be around $85,000, which is typical for the challenge. Regarding those who came out last year but were not able to paddle because of the poor weather, their donations were honored this year.
Block Island Challenge participants had to raise money for charities by contributing or asking friends and family to sponsor their paddle. Paddlers had to raise or contribute a minimum of $1,500 to participate, $750 for paddlers under 18 years old.
Paddlers for Humanity will make a decision within the next couple of weeks about which organizations will benefit from the funds raised.
“Our mission is to better the lives of kids,” Doss explained. “Everything we do will somehow be affecting kids, which will either be through educational opportunities or health initiatives—the list goes on. It’s all about somehow seeing how kids’ lives are made better.”
Next up in the summer series is the Wahine Women and Girl’s Paddle, a 3-mile race that will take place at Big Albert’s Beach on Gardiners Bay in East Hampton on Saturday, August 25. Wahine is the Hawaiian word for “woman”—only females can participate. Each paddler must raise or contribute $300; the fee is reduced to $125 for those 18 and younger.
Paddlers for Humanity is also promoting a battle of the bands that will take place at the Surf Lodge in Montauk on Thursday, August 22, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Each band is scheduled to play for 20 minutes or so in front of a panel of judges, which will include Brian Cosgrove, host of “The Afternoon Ramble” on 88.3 FM, WPPB.
For more information on Paddlers for Humanity, go to www.p4h.org.