M.A. Spagnuolo is a prone paddler who paddles out of Wall Twp, NJ, USA on a Bark Unlimited. Mark and I paddled around New York a few times, have met at the Dean, Cape to Cape in Cape May and talked paddling for a number of years. He’s one of those core guys who shows up and paddles out. He doesn’t ask for anything in return because it gives him so much. He’s a fierce competitor and leaves it all on the water regardless of whether it’s a prone, surfboard, surfski, or OC. Best thing about him is his deep appreciation for the sport, the people and his family.
What are you paddling?: Custom Bark Unlimited
Where is your favorite place to paddle?
The ocean but it’s more of when. I really enjoy paddling on challenging days such as a SE wind. I love doing out and ins on those days. Head straight into the wind or swell then ride it back. Flat days are just a grind.
What is your favorite event and why?
Hands down SEA NYC Paddle. It’s the race that started it all for me. It’s a 25 mile paddle around the Island of Manhattan starting under the Brooklyn Bridge and ending at Chelsea Pier. ( Best way to see NYC) I had a few friends do that race and my best friend had won it a few times. So I decided in 2014 I was going prone paddle it. My wife was nice enough to let me buy a used UL (the board I’m still paddling) July 4th weekend. I trained for a month and did the race and loved every minute of it. I’ve only missed once the race since that first time and it was for the birth of my daughter.
What is your favorite paddling moment and why?
Honestly it would have to be winning the SEA Paddle NYC prone devision in 2017 and having my wife and daughter at the finish line. I had been training for M20 that year but unfortunately wasn’t able to afford the trip. Being able to then put that year of training into the SEA Paddle and to win it was pretty great. Also helps that Ryan Matthews decided to retire that year.
Do you have a bucket list event?
Molokai 2 Oahu. It’s the race of all races in my opinion. I had planned on caring over my training and go for it in 2018 but once we found out my wife was pregnant with our second I knew I wasn’t going to have the time to put into training that I felt is needed to cross The Ka’iwi Channel. It’s called the channel of bones for a reason and if you don’t respect it, it will chew you up. I’m now focusing on 2019 and have already started training. I even purchased an OC1 to help keep me motivated and on the water this winter.
What are you grateful for?
I’m grateful for a wife that understands my love for paddling and supports my goals. I’m also grateful for prone paddling because of it I have made friendships with guys I consider some of my closest friends now. the prone paddlers are a breed of their own. We are constantly texting each other about paddling or up coming races, egging one an other on. Like how does Skolnick have perfect hair after every distance race? He literally makes us all look bad.
Advice or tips for paddlers?
Keep it fun. It’s never work if you’re out there having fun with your friends. There will be days you’ll doubt everything you’re doing. Heck usually at some point during a race I will question every life choice I have made that got me to that point (why am I doing this to myself?) but I finish the race and all I can think about is doing it again.
Do you have a favorite charity?
I do it’s called Beautiful Me: the Hance Family Foundation. It’s one that is very close to my heart.
Check out Beautiful Me at: https://beautifulme.org