Standing Up for Humanity

Adam Kelinson and Jessica Bellofatto were among those who paddled 18 miles from Montauk to Block Island last year. Sue Farnham

    When the first roughly 20 people first worked their way across the open ocean as part of Paddlers for Humanity back in 2005, most were in kayaks or prone paddling on boards, and only one woman, Marilyn Suder, made the trip.
    “In 2008, we started seeing paddleboarding springing up, literally,” said Fred Doss, co-president of the organization with Ed Cashin of Weekend Warrior Tours in Sag Harbor.
    This year when the paddlers take off for the 18-mile trip to Block Island, there will be 32 participants, six of them women. And almost all of them will be standing.
    Participants need to raise at least $1,500 each in sponsorships. Some of them go far above that figure, and with additional donations Paddlers for Humanity hopes to raise about $90,000 from this event alone. The money will go to local causes like the East Hampton Food Pantry and the East Hampton Day Care Learning Center, along with the Prasad children’s dental health program, among other beneficiaries.
    Since its founding, Paddlers for Humanity has distributed close to $600,000 to causes focused mainly on bettering the lives of children both locally and internationally.
    The paddle itself takes off from near the Montauk Lighthouse, and ventures the 18 miles to Block Island. From there, paddlers ride the ferry back.
    When standing up and paddling across a long stretch of open waters, said Mr. Doss, “safety absolutely comes first.”
    Participants in Saturday’s outing, which starts at 6:30 a.m. and is expected to take approximately five hours, are surrounded at all times by support boats, which monitor the progress, both of the team and the individuals, manned by the heads of the support team, Dan and Sue Farnham. “If someone can’t continue, we get them on a boat,” Mr. Doss said. But that is a rare occurrence.
    In addition to the Block Island paddle, Paddlers for Humanity has already hosted a Wahine paddle this summer, geared solely to women. “There’s no doubt that more women are getting into this,” Mr. Doss said. He mentioned three women in particular, in addition to Ms. Suder, who have been enthusiastic paddlers in the events — Dianne Ryan of Napeague and Evelyn O’Doherty of Montauk and Jessica Bellofatto of East Hampton. The latter two are  yoga instructors.
    There are five male paddlers who have participated in the event every year, and Mr. Doss acknowledged them as well: David Lys, Ed Cashin, Scott Bradley, Lars Svanberg, and Michael Bahel.
    Mr. Doss looks forward to good weather for Saturday’s paddle to Block Island. “We saw a submarine once,” he said. “There are moments out there of pure bliss.”
    The Paddlers for Humanity Web site is p4h.org.