It was 4 a.m. on a foggy August morning as my father and I drove to the tip of Montauk on Long Island and into the harbor. It was pitch black as I climbed aboard a boat called The Deliverance. The engine started, and I knew the next time we would be on land it would be at Block Island, Rhode Island, 18 miles away.
The Deliverance was one of five support boats that would help protect and aid the 50 stand-up paddle-boarders participating in Paddlers for Humanity, a charity event benefiting local kids.
For those who don’t know, paddle boarding isn’t easy and is not for the faint of heart. Ocean swells, rolling tides, and winds are just a few of the obstacles facing the paddlers. The group stops every 45 minutes to rest and refuel. Volunteers such as myself ride on support boats and jet skis to keep the paddlers together and provide them with food and drinks such as bananas, Gatorade, and granola bars. The whole trip, which is not a race, can take up to eight hours. Some of the paddlers who are falling behind the group receive a tow on a jet ski to the front of the group, and occasionally some can’t finish.
The Deliverance belongs to Tom O’Donoghue, a local resident who helps run the event. This was my sixth year riding on the support boats as well as volunteering. Next year I hope to become the youngest to ever join the paddle.
You might wonder who had the idea to start this crazy paddle. It was Ed Cashin, a Hamptons resident who wanted to raise money to improve the lives of children in his community. This event, which started in 2005, has grown from 15 participants to more than 60.
Each participant is required to raise a minimum of $1,500 to enter. Most paddlers reach out to family and friends for donations and post on social media about the event, which this year raised more than $200,000
The board members carefully select the charities, focusing on organizations that help with mental health, education, health/nutrition/wellness, and hunger. This year the top three charities were The Bridgehampton Unified School District, Project Most, and Family Service League.
“The most important effect that’s happened because of Paddlers For Humanity is fulfilling our mission in bettering kids’ lives,” said Cashin.
O’Donoghue’s 13-year-old daughter, Maeve, was the youngest participant to complete the 2018 paddle. “[When I finished] I felt relieved and proud that I completed it without getting off,” she said. “I felt like I achieved something.”