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Paddling Their Hearts Out For A Good Cause

Originally Posted: September 02, 2009

Brett Mauser

Amagansett's Mike Bahel glides along during one of three laps on Fort Pond that added up to four miles. Photos by Brett Mauser

Amagansett - For nearly half a decade, Paddlers 4 Humanity has combined outdoor adventures by water and by land with vastly successful charity ventures. On Sunday, a wily crew of stand-up paddlers successfully dodged any ill effects from Tropical Storm Danny and added another profitable event with the P4H Four-Mile SUP Paddle and Surf Art Auction.

Brian Hensler of East Hampton covered the four miles in just under 52 minutes to take home first place.

Twenty-three participants made three loops within Fort Pond that added up to a challenging four-mile trek. East Hampton's Brian Hensler, a member of the East Hampton Volunteer Ocean Rescue Squad, was first across the finish line, completing the course in 51 minutes, 53 seconds. Amagansett's own Mike Bahel took second in 52:32 and Chris Grinnell of Montauk with a time of 56:50. Jessica Bellofatto, founder and director of KamaDeva Yoga in East Hampton, was the first woman across, notching a mark of 58:06.

P4H's Fred Doss, who co-directed the event with business partner Ed Cashin, estimated that the race and auction brought in approximately $50,000, which the organization will devote primarily to the East End Catastrophic Fund, which builds up food banks and provides for families in need. Other beneficiaries include: The Retreat, a refuge for domestic violence victims in East Hampton; the East Hampton Day Care Learning Center, a not-for-profit that provides child care for working families; The PRASAD Project, which provides mobile dental care to children in economically disadvantaged environments; and Build On, an organization to which P4H has donated funds that will be put toward the construction of a new school in Nicaragua this fall.

The water was calm and the wind was light for the first annual four-mile stand-up paddle.

"The goal is to definitely go out and have a good time, and I think people do have a good time, but the underlying reason to do this is to raise money," Doss said. "We look at all these things as fundraisers. We're all volunteering so the good thing is almost every penny that is raised can go out the door."

Caroline Cashin and Paddlers 4 Humanity co-founder Fred Doss.

Cashin was enthused about the post-race response from the community, much of which suggested they enroll in and recruit for future events. The fifth annual Block Island paddle is set for Sept. 13, with a minimum of $1,500 in fundraising due for each entrant. Cashin expects it to consist of the largest field of paddlers in its history. Once that's complete, P4H will then prepare for a full 2010 slate, beginning in April with the Hither Hills Off-Road Half Marathon.

"We want to max out participants in all our events, increase our exposure, increase revenue and continue to give to these charities," Cashin said. "We're building the Catastrophic Fund and focusing on helping out families in need in the wintertime. We want to make sure we have a successful Block Island paddle and build strong momentum leaving the summer going into the fall."

Surfboards designed by Raphael Mazzuczo (top), Sheila Isham (middle) and Andre von Morrisse (bottom).

The auction, in which local artists customized surf boards, raised the majority of the funds. A vivid board designed by Eric Freeman netted $17,000, a high on the day. Significant contributions were also made for boards from Montauk-based Raphael Mazzucco, Southampton's Sheila Isham and several others, as well as for a handmade wooden kayak.

Doss said he was encouraged that 12 of the 23 entrants on Sunday were women, further building on last month's Wahine Women's Only 5-Mile Paddle, the first annual journey from Louse Point to Maidstone Park.

The day's activities were postponed from Saturday to Sunday when early forecasts called for Tropical Storm Danny to wreak havoc on the East End. It only brought steady rainfall, but Doss said the move was necessary albeit costly as an estimated 10 or 12 entrants weren't able to participate as a result of the switch. "The weather did clear later on Saturday but in terms of setting the thing up, there was just no way we could have gone off on Saturday," Doss said. "We had a lot to get out there. It was a good thing that we moved it. It was unfortunate, but all in all, I think it worked out really well."

Paddlers 4 Humanity was formed in 2005 to help raise more than $400,000 for local, national and international non-profit organizations in need of financial aid. Last year alone, the three P4H fundraisers - the Montauk to Block Island Open 20-Mile Ocean Paddle, the Along the Waterfence Paddle, and the Surf Art Auction at Montauk's Surf Lodge - raised more than $140,000.

Race competitors and friends enjoy a pleasant evening at the Surf Lodge in Montauk.

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