photo credit: Christopher J. Vaz Facebook
In September, Hurricane Florence hit the southeast—Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach, Topsail, New Bern and Carolina Beach and the surrounding North and South Carolina areas with an unfathomable slow and methodical barrage of wind and rain. Biblical flooding in areas of historically not prone to flooding left many families vulnerable, uncovered by flood insurance.
The Blockade Runner sustained so much damage that they had to close for repairs that will keep them busy until early spring. Many of you are familiar with this host of the Surf to Sound Challenge and the Carolina Cup among so many other healthy lifestyle events. Here’s an article on the cancellation of the Surf to Sound on the Mullet
So many sustained damage and loss. One of our good friends, John Pike, who has been instrumental in bringing Surfers Healing to our area was one of those who lost everything.
Weeks after, trees and bushes that bloom in spring, bloomed. Nothing was quite right. Route 40, which many who have driven to the Carolina Cup have experienced, had to be cleared of fish. Piles of debris lining streets at times made it feel like driving through tunnels. Mosquitos the size of small birds. It was bizarre.
Even a month later, we have hundreds of families who are still homeless in some of the surrounding areas of Wilmington, NC. Many people lost everything.
Here comes help
Within weeks of the tragedy, we received word from friends in New Jersey who had experienced Hurricane Sandy, who had seen the floods, the damage, the loss. Josette Lata worked with the town of Seaside Heights. They planned the SUP4NC paddle and organized a clothing drop of over 5000 units of brand new surf gear donated by Ergo. Eddy O’Kinsky drove all night from NJ to Topsail (Surf City), NC with a car stuffed to the top, and staying to helping fix roofs. Sandy survivors knew what we were going through and stepped up to help.
Next, I got a call from Richard Lee from the Surfers Environmental Alliance (SEA) who said he had some funds he could contribute to the cause. SEA runs the SEA Paddle NYC, one of my favorite bucket list of bucket list races.
And then the call came from SUP Cayuga. God, I love these paddlers. They set up another paddle in Ithaca, NY. Talk about stoke. The whole situation brings tears to my eyes, honestly. In such a divided world, our water/paddle family goes to bat. They stick up for each other, show up when needed. Paddling lets our humanity surface and connect. I’m just overwhelmed with appreciation for all of you.
Josette Lata, working with volunteers and the town of Seaside Heights collected $3000 in Gift cards (plus some cash online and in person) and an additional $1000 from Richard Lee and SEA for a total donation in excess of $4000. Most of the gift cards are Home Depot gift cards and they are looking to use the cash to buy LOWES gift cards. Leah Beth Goodman did a virtual online race and helped get GO FUNDME participation for people that couldn’t come.
According to Josette, “SUP4NC was a great success. The borough of Seaside Heights that was devastated in Sandy, allowed us to use the bayfront. Seaside Park fire and rescue provided the support boats. Kris Kopsaftis donated his equipment and MC skills. People’s generosity and kindness was overwhelming. 40 people participated in the race, SUP paddlers, prone paddlers and a megladon came from as far as Annapolis to paddle the 4 mile course. People brought food, local and New England surf and SUP shops/schools provided gift auction items and the stoke. Lots of NJ surf legends came by and a few even tried to SUP in a race for the first time. A great many of us from this area were devastated by Sandy and know how much it means to receive help from others. Even if it is a cup of coffee, it is nice to know someone cares. As time goes on people naturally forget that people may still be displaced. We gave out five trophies in each category. Wooden surfboards with engraved placards. I made some of my own.. :1st place hero award for Richard Lee, Happiness award for my friend Claire Conde, 1st place stoke award for Marsha Worthington , etc.. that was fun for me.”
We are enormously thankful for everyone who participated and contributed. THANK YOU! And thank you to the borough of Seaside Heights who made this possible in such a short period of time. It’s amazing.
It’s so cool to see so many of my paddling buddies. Lawrence Goldstein and John M. Ahern always show up. So glad you’re back on the water and getting some stoke.
Paul Wiech got on this early. He and his Cayuga crew had $800+ raised, 20+ people from SUP, Dragon Boat, to work colleagues to strangers walking by donated. “No tacos, we save those for the Tuesday Night Time Trials in the summer, but chili, hot dogs, some crazy tasty whiskey, sugary sweet potato concoction and Halloween candy,” Paul write to me on Facebook, “Weather slowed us down with a high of about 40 degrees with rain, hail and sunshine. Here is the cool thing. The SUP stoke and ohana has created a community up here that cares about each other and the community at large.”
“People come up to me and are always claiming SUP changed their lives and our groups aloha is the biggest reason,” Paul continued, “The SUP Cayuga community is a huge part of that and these folks always extend themselves to others whether it is bringing the Special Olympic Athletes from Key West for the SUP Cup, doing the 24 in snow, raising money for a research boat for kids and now this. My paddling peeps inspire me! Aloha!”
Thank you Paul and and the whole SUP Cayuga crew.
The Halloween shirts were awesome BTW.
The Plan for the Funds
We are working with a charity called Wilmington Area Rebuilding Ministry, Inc. (WARM) that’s been doing an amazing. job getting funds and materials to those who need it most. We worked with them for a benefit with the North Carolina Coastal Federation and were really impressed. They’re legitimate, have been around and their board members are active and reputable. And we’ve seen what they’ve done, so we feel most comfortable with them. We’re simply handing anything we get to them and hopefully turning people like your daughter directly toward them to make donations. warmnc.org or they have a facebook page. We’re not going to be distributing the funds ourselves because quite honestly, we don’t know who needs it the most of really how to do it responsibly. The people at WARM seem to know all of those things and the Coastal Federation has had success working through them. A lot of trust goes into something like this, so we wanted someone vetted. We are also going to make sure a portion of the funds and cards goes to our friend John Pike as a request of some of the contributors in NJ.
Thank you again to everyone…
Paddlers really are amazing creatures, as I have said before. You can learn all that there is to know about their ways in a month, and yet after a hundred years they can still surprise you at a pinch.