Seacoast Paddler Profile: Neal Fillmore

Editor’s Note: Seacoast Paddleboard Club’s Paddler Profile Series highlights the different personalities that make our paddling community so great! If you would like to be featured, please complete this profile.

Where are you from? (Hometown)

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

How long have you been paddling? How did you get started?

A friend let me try paddling for the first time on a beautiful July Fourth weekend in 2011. I spent 50% of the time in the water. I tried paddling a second time in November 2011. It was the Saturday after Thanksgiving and I spent most of my time on my knees paddling the length of Jenness Beach. I had my third paddle on Labor Day weekend 2012. I borrowed a board and participated in Round Island Regatta. This was the first time on a board where I didn’t fall off…however, I did  jump into the water after crossing the finish line.

I began padding year-round from that point. The following summer I read about Chris Carragher and his inspired adventure out to the Isles of Shoals. In 2014, I met Chris and trained to be a part of the Stand Up for Littles group. That September, our paddle date came and there were slight winds out of the Southeast and 1-2-foot swells. About a mile out the conditions changed to 12-17 knot winds and 5-6-foot swells. Losing sight of the safety boat was a rush that I won’t ever forget. At that moment, I was hooked. And, five more Isles of Shoals invitationals with an amazing group of individuals has given me lessons and stories for a lifetime in a rocking chair. Of course, that rocking chair will have to be on a Cocomat!!!

IOS Invitational

Where is Your Favorite Place to Paddle and Why?

A favorite paddle is a launch at the S curve in Kittery Point. Paddle into the marshes of the Rachel Carson Preserve North to Rayen’s Neck. All conditions being checked continuing out into the Atlantic and circumnavigate around Cutts Island and Gerrish Island back into Pepperill Cove and Chauncey Creek. The sights and sounds are amazing and can include an adult Bald Eagle training a juvenile, seals, black dolphins playing off of Cutts Island. The key is planning, paddling with others is always a great experience, paddling alone is always an adventure as long as you have great respect for the conditions and safety.

Describe your favorite paddle boarding memory.

Tough answer, there are two, my first favorite is the coastal New Hampshire paddles, July 31, 2015, a friend dropped me at Salisbury Beach at 9 am, paddling for about 6 hours along the coast to Kittery Point. I discovered much more than just the Wilson’s Storm Petrel, I discovered my focus and distraction thresholds. Paddle boarding is a metaphor for life.

My second most meorable paddle was the Blue Moon Tide coming out of the Piscataqua River with Westerly winds which made the last strokes into Pepperill Cove and Chauncey Creek challenging.

Do you have a favorite board? What is it and why do you love it?

NSP 14 foot Cocomat Cruising and Touring Board. It is just the right length and width for the equilibrium challenged and keeps me from pulling “Neal” or becoming a paddleboard Jesus, with a minimum of three walks off the board into the waters.

Neal Fillmore IOS Invitational 2019

Do you have a favorite paddle board event? What is it and why is it your favorite? (i.e. Blackburn Challenge, Chattajack, IOS Invitational)

The Isles of Shoals Invitational has been my event of choice, from the first time out, just a one way paddle due to the rapidly changing conditions.

Each time out has created it’s own unique challenges and thrills.. 2015 was the year NH Chronicle did a story on us and took lots of pictures. 2016 was the year I overslept and was ushered in 007 style with 1400 HP “Never On Sunday! 2018 was a year to remember, as my baby brother Glen joined the fun for a fog filled excursion, ask me about my Rainbow!?! 2019, well, the Helicopter, the lightning and thunder, and the first time being pulled off the water for safety reasons.

If you could take a paddling trip anywhere in the world where would you go and why?

Norway and the beauty there!

Have you changed boards/paddles/equipment since you started? If so, why?

My first board was a Laird Hamilton, very distinctive board, but not quite right for open Ocean paddling. Chris Carragher was good enough to pay it forward with the his Smooth, in reality, I call it “the freighter” it’s been the one board that has made the most trips to the Isles of Shoals.

Do you have any advice to new paddlers?

Always respect the weather and the water conditions ????.

How long have you been a Seacoast Paddleboard Club Member? How did you first hear about SPC? Why did you join?

I was in with the original crew… It’s a great group of caring and compassionate individuals.

What do you like most about SPC?

There’s always someone willing to paddle!!!

How do you get involved with the community? What charities or causes do you support? Do You belong to a non-profit group?

I have always been part of community efforts from.being a mentor to , fund-raising, paddling, walking and dancing for a variety of causes.

What is your favorite non-paddle thing to do?

It’s a tossup between gardens and hair!

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