The buzz and camaraderie following the 7th Annual SEA Paddle NYC on Friday, August 9th was palpable. Call it luck, or a case of good karma at the event that has raised close to $2 million dollars for children with Autism and the environment since 2007, but the dreary weather forecasts that set everyone on edge were wrong. The Paddle went off smoothly under overcast skies.
That morning, 100 eager paddlers from all over the country gathered under the base of the Brooklyn Bridge on the East River to listen closely to a safety briefing. At 9:45am, surf legend Darrick Doerner and extreme athlete Darian Boyle lead the crew of 60 paddlers up the East River on an epic 25 mile journey to Chelsea Piers. 35 minutes later, a group of 40 elite racers chased them.
“It was a challenging day on the water,“ said Boyle, also a SEA Board member, as she led the eager paddlers out into the waters at the starting line, “the strong willed survived any challenges presented by Mother Nature for an all-star day!”
A flotilla of support craft, along with safety boats from the NYPD and FDNY, kept everyone safe as they sped up the East River with favorable currents and a tailwind. Traversing the Harlem River was also effortless, a welcome surprise. 15 miles in, as they approached the Hudson, many returning paddlers felt they were on track to post personal bests.
The Harlem River empties into the Hudson in breathtaking fashion. The George Washington Bridge looms overhead and disappears into the green cliffs of New Jersey, and down river the glory of Manhattan awaits. But it wasn’t the scenery that took paddlers’ breath away this year. Despite another favorable current, paddlers faced stiff and gusting headwinds. It was game time, and the true Paddle began.
Paddlers hugged the shoreline slowly working their way 10 miles to the finish at Chelsea Piers. The strongest forged on without slowing. Others spent time on their knees or even prone paddled to reduce their wind profile. Some even conceded to Mother Nature, taking a boat to the finish. As long distance paddlers battled on, a crew of 20 more paddlers embarked on a short-course, 5 mile paddle from Pier 60 past the Intrepid and back.
“Surfers Environmental Alliance is proud to give back to the community by sponsoring this event,” says SEA Executive Director Richard Lee. “This is the event that should be on every paddler’s bucket list.”
Proceeds from the event support Parents of Autistic Children, Autism Family Services of New Jersey, Surfers Healing, Best Day Foundation, the Shore Center for Students with Autism, the Virginia Autism Project, Tommie Cares Foundation, Surfers' Environmental Alliance (SEA), and Sandy Relief.
Repeating his 2012 victory, Ryan Matthews swept the entire field in the 25 mile race at 4 :35 hours on a prone paddleboard. Bryan Gleason led men’s SUP at 5:12 hours and Patricia Miller came in first in women’s SUP at 5:54 hours
Paddlers enjoyed a well-deserved hot shower at the Sports Center at Chelsea Piers. Celebrating at the Chelsea Brewing Company, paddlers congratulated one another, swapped tales of their epic adventure, exchanged paddling techniques, and made new friends. All agreed that they’d be back.
Learn more at www.seasurfer.org.