A Humble Beginning
Five years ago, my niece and I went paddle boarding for our very first time. While paddling, I caught sight of the Isles of Shoals, and instantly set my mind on making a round trip paddle to the island chain before the end of summer.
Little did I know then that what I set out to do that summer would spark a passion in so many paddlers, and have such a positive impact on the lives of some truly amazing kids today.
The story of the Stand Up for Littles’ IOS Invitational paddle and Seacoast Paddleboard Club really begins in the winter of 2012.
That December, I lost my father to a stroke. He was a huge influence in my life, and by far my most important mentor. In the wake of his passing, my wife and I decided to get involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters of NH (BBBSNH) as a couple’s match.
After being matched with a five year old boy named Caden, I saw the challenge of paddling to the shoals as an opportunity to teach him the importance of setting goals, staying active and respecting the outdoors.
Over the next few weeks, my paddle gradually evolved into the Stand Up For Littles fundraising paddle for BBBSNH, and in my own head, served as a quiet tribute to my Dad.
After spending every Saturday paddling out or back from the shoals with a chase boat, my paddle day came. And, after five grueling hours, I returned to the cheers of family, friends and supporters at Odiorne Point boat ramp to complete my 16+ mile excursion.
After raising six thousand dollars for the organization, I thought my paddle with a purpose was over, but I was wrong.
The Rise of the Stand Up For Littles’ IOS Invitational Paddle
As it turns out there were other paddlers out there, like me, who saw the shoals paddle as a bucket list item that needed to be checked. And one-by-one they reached out to me.
First was Neal, then Drew, then Marcel. Over time our crew grew, and word about the Stand Up For Littles (SUFL) paddle spread thanks to the help of our supporters like Jetty, Kittery Trading Post, SUPreme Paddle Gear and The Shack Surf Shop.
The following year, in an effort to complete the paddle before the Fall, three of us braved ridiculous odds, and set out in 6’ to 8’ seas and howling Northeast winds in a hard-fought attempt to reach the shoals. Battling waves on knee, Neal (no pun intended) and Marcel actually made landfall on Appledore before jumping in the boat and returning home.
Soaked and tired, we returned to Rye Harbor having raised just over $10,000 for BBBSNH that year. More importantly, momentum for what we were doing continued to build.
In the summer of 2015, Carrie, Bee, Leo, Corey, and Nikki joined the paddle, and with some love from WMUR Chronicle, we completed our paddle in near perfect conditions, while raising more than $14K for BBBSNH.
By 2016 we were 20 strong who together, with the support of more than a dozen safety boats, set out and completed our fourth successful, round-trip paddle to the Isles of Shoals. On our way to raising more than $21,000 for Big Brothers Big Sisters of NH, the planets aligned once more and we were treated to perfect paddle conditions.
Connecting Community through the Seacoast Paddleboard Club
To help nurture the growth of our annual shoals paddle, we introduced the Seacoast Paddleboard Club (SPC) in the Spring of 2016. With our mission to create a close knit community of paddlers who are focused on taking care of the places we love to paddle, the club hosts a variety of on-water and off-water events like community paddles, race clinics, beach cleanups and movie nights.
As a philanthropic extension of the work we do with Big Brothers Big Sisters of NH the SPC donates 50% of membership dues to either Blue Ocean Society or the Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership (PREP).
Through the club, new friendships have formed, sponsorship and support for our paddlers has grown, and awareness for the important work Big Brothers Big Sisters does on behalf of kids across the country continues to spread.
Gearing Up for the 2017 Isles of Shoals’ Paddle
With four years, hundreds of miles paddled, and a lot of hard work behind us, I’m excited to announce that 30 paddlers will be participating in this year’s Stand Up For Littles’s IOS Invitational paddle on Saturday August 12, 2017.
While expanding to a new six, five-person team format, we’ve extended an invitation to 10 new paddlers with the hopes of raising more than $30,000 for Big Brothers Big Sisters of NH.
As our teams continue to train hard, we are encouraging all of our family, friends and colleagues to show their support, and help us spread the word about our paddle for BBBSNH.
With the safety of our paddlers a top priority, we are still looking to for boat captains to donate their time and vessels. If interested please drop us a line or give us a call at 603.498.8198.