Paddlers raise money for charity

Fri, 08/31/2018 - 9:00am

Seven hours on the water, standing up for 18 miles, slowly paddling, moving forward at three knots an hour.

Luckily, it was a calm, beautiful day for the 50 or so participants in the annual Montauk to Block Island paddleboard fundraiser, sponsored by Paddlers for Humanity. They made their way into the Great Salt Pond at about 2:15 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 25, hugging close to the shore, with beachgoers at Coast Guard Beach cheering and urging them on to the finish.

Block Island resident Jeff Smith has done the challenge six times — he also runs a kayak business on the Pond — and two days later he said his legs were still sore. He first learned about the event from a surfer friend, and he joined the fundraiser in 2010. Both his sons have also paddled in the event. Smith said he was one of two islanders who participated this year — the other was Charlie Douglas — and they left for Montauk the night before, on Friday, Aug. 24, and stayed in the homes of host families on Long Island.

“Then the next morning we met at the Lighthouse and took off,” he said. They all left about 6:30 a.m. and didn’t come through the cut in the GSP until a little after 2 p.m. “It was really calm,” said Smith. The organizers knew they would come in from the south east, allowing the paddlers to keep a “pretty good pace.” So that all the paddlers can come in all together, they gathered at the opening of the channel and then paddled in as a group. Smith said they were paddling into the wind for the last mile. “At the end everybody’s pretty tired.”

Smith said about $180,000 had been raised by the participants. Paddlers for Humanity is a non-profit based out of the Hamptons. Its website states that it is “dedicated to bettering the lives of children, with an emphasis on supporting innovative and comprehensive mental health programs for kids and youth, including greater early intervention outreach, resiliency, anti-bullying, and changing behavior through a focus on the positive.”

Smith said that he has asked Paddlers for Humanity to donate some of the donations raised for the event back to Block Island, which he said they have promised to do next year. “It’ll be easier to get contributions because people will see where the money is going. Now they don’t see that,” said Smith, who runs Ocean Adventures. Smith said he will help train anyone who is interested in participating in next year’s event.