Racers line up before an iconic backdrop on the only beach in Manhattan for the 2017 SEA Paddle NYC. Photo courtesy of @codyrryan/CLIF Bar
Racers line up before an iconic backdrop on the only beach in Manhattan for the 2017 SEA Paddle NYC. Photo courtesy of @codyrryan/CLIF Bar

A Racer’s Perspective: SEA Paddle NYC

Paddling with purpose in New York’s 25-mile SUP race

by Christian Shaw, Plastic Tides

Heavy summertime raindrops pelted the roof sharply as we clambered into our Uber through the early morning gloom still half asleep. We were headed for the 2017 Surfers Environmental Alliance (SEA) Paddle NYC, the renowned fundraising race for autism and the environment now in its 11th year.

My partner at Plastic Tides, Gordon Middleton, and I had been invited to paddle on the CLIF Bar relay team. As the hosts of the Devil's Isle Challenge in Bermuda, an endurance race that supports the environment and youth, we were excited to see the parallels between SEA Paddle and our own event. We accepted the relay team's offer with gratitude.

When we reached the race site the rain had cleared and was replaced with low-hanging gray clouds and a comfortably cool and damp atmosphere. We made our way into the fray as antsy paddlers, volunteers and interested passersby milled and mingled. Nearly a hundred boards lined the guardrail separating the boardwalk from a small beach tucked away directly beneath the iconic Manhattan Bridge.

Approaching the race site we spotted a group of volunteers busily working to clean up the very dirty beach. We grabbed some gloves and stepped in to help pick up trash. The site was in environmental shambles and I soon found myself in dry heaves after reaching for the wrong patch of urine soaked polystyrene. I stood up to remove another full trash bag and spotted fresh cases of bottled water being loaded down to the beachfront. This sharply juxtaposed with the ongoing effort behind me. In those moments it's important to remember that not everyone is an expert on plastic pollution and effective solutions, and the responsibility is on race directors to keep their participants safe and hydrated. Fortunately we're already talking about how to change things for 2018 and hydrate in a sustainable way.

Contenders of SEA Paddle NYC hammering through New York for a common cause. Photo: @codyrryan/CLIF

The next time I looked up from my task, it was to the voice of Will Yandell, our host, approaching with a smile and exclaiming "Gordon, Christian, the race starts in 5 minutes! Who's going first?" He tossed us a couple CLIF singlets and sent us off to find our board, a shiny 14' Bark Vapor that fit the bill for this twenty-five-mile endeavor around the Big Apple.

I took the opening leg and stood at the start line awaiting the hooter. The horn sounded and the traffic jam that ensued had me bobbing and weaving to find open water. Once I broke out I disregarded my complete lack of a warm-up and laid down the hammer, stroking fast and hard and passing some paddlers. I fell into a rhythm, meditating on the task at hand and soaking in the unique surroundings. The East River was eerily calm and the water moved swiftly passed, block by block. A couple miles in I was leading a three-man draft train with sights set on the only paddler ahead of me just a couple hundred yards away. According to Derek (the solo paddler directly behind me) we were moving at a steady 6.5mph with a slight current in our favor. Before I knew it I was drenched in sweat, gliding under the 59th Street Bridge, and handing off to Andrew Dima – a local waterman and owner of A-Team Paddleboarding in Rockaway Beach. As Andrew took off in a flash I contemplated jumping in to rinse off, but quickly thought better of it. This was the East River after all.

What followed over the next few hours, and well into the evening was an absolute blast. By 10am we were singing and dancing on the back of the boat, cheering on every single paddler we passed. The crowd was diverse including the local Ke Aloha Outrigger Club supporting the race in their OC-6.

Larry Caine leads a draft train comprised of last year’s SEA Paddle champ Kai Lenny, Jeremy Teulade and Garrett Fletcher toward the front of the pack. Photo: @codyrryan/CLIF

Enthralled by a totally new perspective of the city I was like a little kid asking our captain about one spot or another. Later on we were afforded a front row vantage of the elite race beneath the George Washington Bridge. Kai Lenny led a draft train into the wind down the Hudson. Larry Cain, Jeremy Teulade, and Garrett Fletcher followed in tight formation. Meanwhile Chase Kosterlitz powered into the distance.

J.M. Kostallas of Kostal Paddle cruised past the Chelsea Pier after 4:21:35 to claim 2nd place in the relay for our team, but that didn't really matter. As much as we applaud Seychelle and Chase for their impressive performances, it wasn’t about them either. And as much as the event’s $30,000 prize purse is appreciated by the paddlers, for everyone involved from the organizer Richie Lee and his team to the children with autism who benefit from the race, it isn’t really about the money, either. It's about people coming together with passion for a common cause. Coming together to do something they love and amplify their positive energy as it ripples through the community.

Learn more about SEA Paddle NYC.

Full Results

1 57 3:48:05 Kosterlitz Chase Elite Men SUP Male
1 72 3:51:35 Matthews Ryan Charity Paddler Male
2 61 3:55:36 Lenny Kai Elite Men SUP Male
3 11 3:56:00 Cain Larry Elite Men SUP Male
2 4 3:56:35 Beausang John Charity Paddler Male
4 29 3:57:10 Fletcher Garrett Elite Men SUP Male
5 101 3:57:25 Teulade Jeremy Elite Men SUP Male
6 102 4:08:55 Teulade Ludovic Elite Men SUP Male
7 43 4:09:15 Huempfner Joseph Elite Men SUP Male
8 26 4:09:30 English Samuel Elite Men SUP Male
1 41 4:11:10 Hattingh Seychelle Elite Female SUP Female
1 28 4:16:00 Fithian Michael
Charity Relay Team
Male
9 100 4:19:35 Taylor Corey Elite Men SUP Male
2 56 4:21:40 Kostallas J.M.
Charity Relay Team
Male
1 98 4:22:15 Spagnuolo Mark Elite Prone Male
10 33 4:23:50 Galang Anthony Elite Men SUP Male
11 25 4:28:55 Dullack Steve Elite Men SUP Male
12 94 4:32:05 Schrotter Derek Elite Men SUP Male
3 48 4:32:30 Jessop Richard
Charity Relay Team
Male
3 32 4:35:50 Francis Gary Charity Paddler Male
13 6 4:36:20 Best Wayne Elite Men SUP Male
4 17 4:38:25 Cubelo Richard
Charity Relay Team
Male
5 18 4:40:50 Cubelo Lynda
Charity Relay Team
Female
4 46 4:41:55 Jantzen Ryan Charity Paddler Male
5 55 4:42:35 Kopplin Erik Charity Paddler Male
2 120 4:43:15 Skudin Will Elite Prone Male
6 20 4:45:30 Currier Michelle
Charity Relay Team
Female
7 50 4:47:00 Kaasmann Greg
Charity Relay Team
Male
6 118 4:47:45 Yoval Larry Charity Paddler Male
8 113 4:48:10 Wong Kaity
Charity Relay Team
Female
7 85 4:49:50 Okaya Noriko Charity Paddler Female
3 27 4:52:30 Ferencz Alex Elite Prone Male
2 76 4:52:50 Merry Rachael Elite Female SUP Female
3 40 4:53:15 Harris LouAnne Elite Female SUP Female
8 92 4:53:30 Schlossberg Jack Charity Paddler Male
14 117 4:53:40 Attisano Keith Elite Men SUP Male
15 87 4:54:20 Preston James Elite Men SUP Male
4 78 5:01:50 Miller Trish Elite Female SUP Female
9 106 5:04:00 Van Dyke Chris Charity Paddler Male
10 99 5:04:05 Stemetzki George Charity Paddler Male
4 89 5:04:50 Russo
Christopher
Elite Prone Male
11 34 5:07:30 Garcia-Lopez Jose Charity Paddler Male
12 23 5:09:00 DePasquale Vincent Charity Paddler Male
13 115 5:09:30 Yetman Benton Charity Paddler Male
9 96 5:10:15 Sherzad Zahra
Charity Relay Team
Female
14 38 5:10:55 Griffin Paul Charity Paddler Male
10 2 5:11:55 Amendolia Maria
Charity Relay Team
Female
15 42 5:13:03 Henkes John Charity Paddler Male
16 109 5:13:05 Weiner Zachary Charity Paddler Male
5 60 5:13:55 Lemke Joe Elite Prone Male
17 58 5:14:30 Kurani Dan Charity Paddler Male
18 12 5:17:00 Cohen Scott Charity Paddler Male
19 79 5:18:45 Montgomery Max Charity Paddler Male
20 107 5:19:05 VanderEls Alex Charity Paddler Male
21 22 5:21:40 Dawson Mary Charity Paddler Female
22 86 5:24:45 Olson Brian Charity Paddler Male
5 59 5:27:20 Lata Josette Elite Female SUP Female
6 116 5:29:35 Yurchenko Anna Elite Female SUP Female
16 3 5:31:10 Bafford Edmonds Elite Men SUP Male
23 39 5:32:20 Halperin Mike Charity Paddler Male
24 83 5:34:35 Nussen Adam Charity Paddler Male
26 81 5:35:45 Munaco Julie Charity Paddler Female
25 49 5:35:55 Judge John Charity Paddler Male
27 13 5:36:40 Condie Claire Charity Paddler Female
28 19 5:37:10 Curran Nancy Charity Paddler Female
29 65 5:38:50 Majno Lindsay Charity Paddler Female
30 91 5:39:40 Schambach Brad Charity Paddler Male
31 103 5:40:25 Thomas Michael Charity Paddler Male
11 31 5:42:35 Follenius Alyson
Charity Relay Team
Female
32 105 5:43:40 Valgenti John Charity Paddler Male
33 47 5:44:05 Jeesun Ha Dominique Charity Paddler Female
12 69 5:45:50 Marotta Nicholas
Charity Relay Team
Male
7 67 5:47:30 Marinho Maryann Elite Female SUP Female
13 52 5:48:05 Kaplan Andrew
Charity Relay Team
Male
17 104 5:48:50 Tietz Chris Elite Men SUP Male
34 10 5:49:25 Byrne Rich Charity Paddler Male
35 121 5:49:45 Tortonice Alex Charity Paddler Male
36 16 5:54:40
Charity Relay Team
Marcus Charity Paddler Male
14 8 5:56:40 Blatz Camille
Charity Relay Team
Female
37 30 5:57:20 Fly Josh Charity Paddler Male
38 68 5:58:50 Mark Matt Charity Paddler Male
39 14 6:01:30 Corrigan Miller Charity Paddler Male
40 37 6:02:35 Gregory Ryan Charity Paddler Male
41 122 6:03:00 Arnold James Charity Paddler Male
42 73 6:03:05 McClatchey Shane Charity Paddler Male
43 74 6:04:30 McIntyre Colleen Charity Paddler Female
15 70 6:12:35 Marvin Karen
Charity Relay Team
Female
44 90 6:18:00 Russomano James Charity Paddler Male
45 110 6:25:11 White Amy Charity Paddler Female
46 15 6:25:12 Corrigan Mae Charity Paddler Female
17 5 6:38:50 Becerra Michael
Charity Relay Team
Male
16 108 6:38:50 Wang Norman
Charity Relay Team
Male