For the past several summers, an assembled crew of New York and New Jersey endurance nutjobs have paddled 28-miles around Manhattan in the name of autism awareness. Well, this year when Surfers' Environmental Alliance strokes around the greatest city in the world, they will be joined by a host of world-class nutjobs. And this year, they've decided to make it a race with $3,000 on the line for first place among the Men and $1,500 among the Women.
I was on a press boat the first year Andrew Mencinsky, of SEA, organized this marathon-plus-two event and it was fairly amazing. Not only was it a physical feat of mind-blowing proportion, but New York City looks stunning from the water in August. I remember Gerry Lopez just marveling at the architecture as he paddled underneath the Brooklyn Bridge.
Izzy Paskowitz of Surfers Healing did this event last year for the first time. Surfers Healing reaches autistic children by getting them into waves. The SEA event raises money for eight autism charities, last year to the impressive tune of $250,000. For information on the fundraising event in NYC go here.
The paddlers are both prone and stand-up, this year drawing some 200 overall to the Hudson River, Hell's Gate and East River. One of the big additions this year will be Tom Jones -- not the 70-year old entertainer, but the environmental ironman Tom Jones. This extreme runner/kickboxer/motivator is in the process of setting a new world record, stand-up paddling 2,800 miles from Key West to NYC to advocate a plastic-free ocean. When he arrives, he'll join the SEA paddle as a victory lap.
The big waterman addition this year is Jamie Mitchell. Mitchell is basically the most dominant prone paddler in the world right now, having won the Moloka'I to O'ahu Race eight times and is well respected as a global big-wave charger. Then there's longboard talent Joel Tudor, actor David Chokachi of Baywatch fame, and Garrett McNamara.
There are a few locals who might give the elite guys a run for their money. Last month at the Dean Randazzo Cancer Foundation Paddle for a Cause, NYC's Mark Temme edged out Long Beach Island, NJ's Billy Mehl. Though the SEA event was not a race in the past, Mehl has finished first several times. Both are ready to stroke.