Big Apple challenge

SEA Paddle NYC racers journey 28 miles around Manhattan

The Hudson River on a New York City summer day doesn’t see much outside of the typical flurry of commercial tankers, cruise ships, water taxis and pleasure boats. Dozens of elite standup paddlers changed that scene on Friday at SEA Paddle NYC. Taking to the Hudson, racers dodged the river traffic, battling fierce 95-degree heat coupled with choppy conditions as they paddled 28 miles in total—from Pier 40 at Houston and West Street, up the west side of Manhattan and back down the tidal currents of the East River and under the Brooklyn Bridge to a finish at South Street Seaport.

The fourth annual race is an amateur paddler gathering and charity auction event organized by Surfers’ Environmental Alliance (SEA) and benefits numerous autism awareness, research and therapy charities, including Beautiful Son, Believe in Me Foundation and Surfers Healing. The race field featured Extreme Surfing World Champion Garrett McNamara, surf icon Joel Tudor and pro SUP athletes from across the globe. Also participating were three Surftech-sponsored racers: nine-time Molokai-2-Oahu paddling champion Jamie Mitchell, 2010 Battle of the Paddle Hawaii winner Candice Appleby and 15-year-old SUP phenom Slater Trout.

We got a few minutes with Appleby, who is no stranger to this kind of charitable commitment.

“I’m really excited to help raise money for such a great cause,” she said. “Autism is something that is very close to my heart as I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to share surfing with many autistic children.”

Sea Paddle NYC is the concluding event in a grueling yet success-filled summer for Trout. On May 22, he claimed a decisive victory in the Men’s Elite Division at the Gulf Coast Championships and trumped it by stunning the veteran field at the 2010 US Paddling Championships, on July 7 in Redondo Beach, Calif., as he won the 14-foot men’s open division.

“I love competing, but I’m not really here for the race,” Trout said, asked why he traveled to New York when he could have been resting up at home in Maui. “I just want to support what the event’s doing for the SEA and autism charities and am glad I’ve raised $2,000 to help them out.”

Trout, who is more accustomed to surf-zone coastal waters, explained how the ever-changing conditions of the Hudson River posed a unique challenge: “The current’s so strong that it’s breaking on the piers, and heavy boat traffic is making it really choppy. Some people say [the race] is 28 miles but actually it’s 32, so it’s a real endurance test.”

This is the fourth year that Surftech has supported SEA Paddle NYC. Surftech Marketing Director Duke Brouwer, fresh off the back of a 20-city tour with Trout, Appleby, Mitchell and Laird Hamilton that introduced newbie standup paddlers to the sport, was excited about the multiple benefits of the successful event.

“With the exploding popularity of SUP, we’re fortunate to have opportunities to help events like SEA Paddle NYC increase awareness and raise money for good causes,” Brouwer said. “Surftech is blessed to have athletes like Slater, Jamie, Candice and Laird who gladly dedicate time to helping others.”

Results

Team Ohana’s Thomas “Maximus” Shahinian, who’s based in San Clemente, Calif., held off Trout to win the Elite Race. Shahinian’s Ohana teammate, Will Reichenstein, took third place behind Trout, the youngest competitor in the field. Appleby finished first in the women’s division and eighth overall. SEA Paddle NYC 2010 has raised more than $260,000 so far. — Phil White

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