When Waterman’s Paddle For Humanity was in need of a new event director, Rob Farrow more than fit the bill. With a background rooted deep in paddling, years of experience building brands and putting on events in the surfing industry, not to mention his strong passion for promoting paddling, Farrow made perfect sense to head the Paddle For Humanity’s expanded national series. – Shari Coble
SM: Tell us about your background.
RF: I’ve had kind of an odd journey. I come from the pro surfing environment, but I grew up on Oahu paddling outriggers and paddleboarding. I joined the Outrigger Canoe Club when I was around 10 years old as a 4th generation member. To become a member you have to have two current members sponsor you, my two sponsors were Cline Mann and Henry Ayau. Cline was a very instrumental figure in paddleboarding and was responsible for keeping it going in Hawaii in ‘70’s and 80’s. When I joined the club I made a promise to Cline and Henry I would do my best to perpetuate Outrigger paddling and support others in the sport. I raced paddleboards and outriggers from about 12 till I was 18. All the while I was surfing and started to compete in that arena. I began to drift away from paddleboard racing and gravitated towards outriggers and surfing.
I moved to CA and went to Point Loma Nazarene University for college where I had some pretty classic roommates. We were always up to something and were a very forward-thinking, adventurous group. Guys like Ricki Irons (former Publisher of Surfer and current Global Brand Manager at Dragon Optics), Tony Perez (Publisher of Surfer and Surfing Magazines) and Tucker Hall (co-founder of Volcom). Surfing was my passion, but oddly I never pursued it as a career. I’ve always been around the surfing industry and finally decided to get more involved through the production of events.
SM: How’d you get involved with Paddle For Humanity?
RF: I was working with SurfAid International (SIA) for about 6 months as a brand strategist and analyst, helping them to reinvigorate their brand. One of their fundraising platforms they were involved in was the Waterman’s Paddle For Humanity. Last year the partnership with SIA ended and we had the opportunity to take the PFH event platform out to a broader market and offer its benefits to a larger segment of the non-profit sector. SIA is still a beneficiary of the event, but now so are several other very worthy causes. On a personal note, continuing my involvement with PFH helps to continue my promise to Cline in that I’m still promoting paddling and helping to produce a positive platform for the sport.
SM: Can you tell us what’s on tap for this year’s PFH series?
RF: We’ve added two more races this year: Lake Tahoe and Austin, Texas, so there will be five stops total. We’ll start in Dana Point, Calif., then go to Deerfield, Fla., up to D.C., back to Lake Tahoe, then finish out in Austin. We’ve got some great sponsors this year, including Kona Brewing Co., so there will be some frosty beverages being poured for paddlers’ enjoyment. Also, the World Paddle Association (WPA) is sanctioning the entire series. Each stop will offer three unique races for individuals to compete in, the 5k (future Olympic distance) , Distance Over Time (DOT) and the 5-lap Paddle Rally. The Paddle Rally will consist of 4 laps of paddling and one lap of an obstacle course on land (think Tough Mudder for paddling). We partnered with waterman Chuck Patterson to create the Paddle Rally race, he will be designing the courses and testing the obstacles the paddlers will encounter.
Ultimately, we’re trying to fulfill all components of paddling and deliver a premium competitive platform while extending our reach into the community. The process includes choosing the right venues for each event allowing paddlers- novice up to elite- to showcase their skills while helping to support the paddling communities in each region. We’re hoping for around 400 paddlers at each event and to meet our fund-raising goal of $100k.
SM: What organizations will benefit from the series?
RF: This year we’re letting the paddlers choose the charity they would like to support. It’s a chance to allow the paddlers to have more control over where their entry fee and donations will go. 20% of each race entry will go to the paddlers’ charities, with the rest going toward the event production. Each race will also support local charities, so the Dana Point stop will raise money to support the San Clemente State Lifeguard Association and the San Onofre Foundation.
The official PFH charity partner is the Navy Seal Foundation, which supports the rehabilitation of wounded operators, funeral expenses and scholarship programs for kids of fallen Navy Seals. We want to drive this home and other charities that will also benefit include Love 146, Best Day, Keep Paddlin, Lake Tahoe Waterman Association and more.