Stand Up Paddling Cape Cod Bay

Standup paddle boards are fantastic exercise, lots of fun, and they work everywhere there’s water. This article is about a distance paddle on SUP boards and some surrounding events–all for charity.

The Cape Cod Bay Challenge is getting to be a pretty big deal. It’s now an umbrella for multiple events, all of which share a common theme–great parties. Really great parties. Must be an East Coast thing. At the risk of arousing some ire, at the many events I’ve done on the west coast and in Maui they either don’t have parties at all, or have ones that are pretty lame, at least by comparison. If you’re anywhere near driving distance to Boston you really need to plan on getting involved in some or all of these events next year, it’s really cool. I’ve flown cross-country for the last three years of the paddle and had a blast. It’s a great event and well worth the effort.

The CCBC benefits Christopher’s Haven, a nonprofit organization that provides temporary housing for children and their families during prolonged cancer treatments at Mass General Hospital. If you are interested in learning more about Christopher’s Haven please visit – If you are interested in donating to help the kids who benefit from the services provided by Christopher’s Haven, please visit their donation page at –

The granddaddy event is the Cape Cod Bay Challenge paddle–30 miles across Cape Cod from Plymouth to Provincetown. But there are three other events. They kick off with the Wellfleet Supathalon–this year it was June 12th. The event was put together by Jody Craven a long time lifeguard in Wellfleet and one of the original 8 CCBC paddlers and his good friend Christa Von der Luft (the 1st woman to ever make the CCBC crossing in 2009) Eight laps of an 800-yard ocean stand-up paddle and 200-yard beach run for a total of 3.6 miles of paddling and 0.9 miles of running. Competitors could participate individually or in two-person relay teams. Here’s a slide show from the event:

Next up was The Challenge on the Charles, held at the Community Boating facility on the Charles River. The race was approximately 4 miles with a spectacular start and finish through the lagoons in front of the Hatch Shell concert area along the Esplanade on the Charles River. Of course there was a great party after the race. Wachusett Brewing provided the suds and a great band from the South Shore called The Smoking Jackets provided the entertainment. From the pictures I’d say the party was well up to CCBC standards–looked like a blast. I would have liked to do this event, but two trips cross-country to paddle seem like just a bit too much.

These pictures were shot by Mike Chase’s wife. Mike is one of the spark plugs behind the Challenge on the Charles, he along with Craig “Boardshorts” Lovett pulled this event together. This is likely to grow into a big event unto itself, you don’t get much better venues and the tradition of racing watercraft on the Charles River is an old one.

The start–everyone gets away smoothly into the lagoon

The first leg ran up outside the lagoon

At the first turn the paddlers started to string out a little, with a downwind bump

The Zakim bridge provides an interesting background as the paddlers complete the first leg

The next turn took the paddlers into the wind for a tough slog

Then a turn into the lagoon and under the walking bridges

The Boston skyline dominates the view

Turning into the lagoon for the second time

At the finish line

The Smoking Jackets rock out

The sun sets on a fine day

The Cape Cod Bay Challenge
The Cape Cod Bay Challenge had TWO parties. They started with a pre-function at the Cabby Shack in Plymouth, where the CCBC took over most of the upper deck and had the awesome Chris Fitz blues band providing some great music downstairs. With a Naish Glide 14 towering over the deck it was pretty obvious where the SUP party was. While most of us were throttled back a bit, anticipating a long and tough day starting at 5:00 AM, there was a pretty strong contingent determined to close the place. Crazy buggahs. I had a few beers more than I intended to, ate more clams than I planned to, and stayed later than I wanted to, but I managed to get back to the motel at a rational hour and get a pretty solid five hours of sleep.

Brother Bob is the lumpy guy with the big head. Somehow he got into almost all the pictures. He’s certainly learned the first rule of events–give your sponsors lots of love. He and Mike made certain that everyone knew that Naish had donated the board and what a great sponsor Wachusetts Brewing is as well as mentioning every sponsor numerous times. The CCBC has a lot of sponsors. Now we know why.

The CCBC pretty much took over the upper deck at the Cabby Shack. The staff and management were just great, and the food and view were excellent. Great location.

Mike blowing the ceremonial Conch. We heard this thing a lot over the next day. Incidentally, Mike is absolutely nuts.

David Chokachi getting ready to sign the mini-board that will hang in Christopher’s haven common room. All the paddlers signed this presentation board made by Shawn Vechione (Vec Surfboards) and Keith Natti (Twin Lights Glassing). Shawn and Keith also built a special SUP with hand and footprints from some of the kids that have stayed at Christopher’s Haven glassed into the board.

When I got to the parking lot of the launch beach at 4:20 ayem there was no one else there. “Oh great”, says I, “I’m in the wrong place” But within a few minutes a steady stream of headlights began finding their way to the lot, and it filled quickly with cars, paddlers, boards and well-wishers. It was pretty much pitch black, and I wondered about the 5:00 am starting time. Bob showed up with my board and his–mine a 12’6″ Hovie Race board, his a 14′ Vec. I took them down to the beach and rigged up my gear. A camelback full of water with a little electrolyte mix in it, a bunch of energy bars and Gu, my music in the pack. I gave my spare paddle to Bob’s daughter Nikki to stick in the boat, and I was ready.

After a little wandering around in the dark and some organizational folderol everyone else was too. We got into the water as the sky was lightening slightly and the water looked like a mirror.

These shots by Amelia Hassler really captured the mood and the beauty of the beginning of our long paddle. As you can see, Amelia is one hell of a shooter:

Stars still out and just a hint of light on the horizon. That’s me sporting the festive single triathalon legging to keep my varicose vein in check. Getting old isn’t for sissies.

The sun starts to light the bay–pure glass

Boards at the ready

The paddlers gather. Looks like a scene from some search-and-rescue show with all the orange vests.

Off we go, head ’em up

Beautiful–it felt magical to be on the water with this group of people

We set off across the glassy water with just the beginning of light in the sky to the east. As the light increased the beauty of the scene intensified. I found the Hovie 12’6″ I was paddling to be quite fast in the smooth water. I pulled out away from the group who were still getting into a rhythm and then turned to watch. The bay with the town of Plymouth behind it was amazingly beautiful, and the paddlers looked amazing moving smoothly across the dark water. I stood and watched, enjoying the scene so much that I didn’t fumble for my camera and take pictures, just drank it in.

All of the paddlers looked competent and reasonably fast. If their training was as good as it looked we’d have a good average for the crossing, but there was a general concern about the conditions in the afternoon. The previous day the wind had come up just after noon, and it was blowing the wrong way. The consensus was to push hard in the morning and set a good pace, to take advantage of the morning calm. We exited the bay, connected with our escort boats, and headed for Provincetown about 28 miles away.

The paddlers strung out as expected with this large number of paddlers and varied boards. There were people on stock surfboards, and people on unlimited race boards, and everything between.

Just 31.5 miles to go

Nice form, but a little more bord might be nice

My lumpy brother on his Vec

Check out the camp stool on the back and cooler on the front of the woodie. We were all envying his rig by the second stop. Way too civilized.

Premature celebration

Looking for a little professional courtesy

Gotta get on of these hats–they were perfect

Our boat captains did a great job herding the cats and keeping other traffic away

A paddle out for my brother David, who passed away the day I arrived in Boston to do the CCBC.

You meet some interesting people on a paddle of this length. Everyone at the CCBC was fun to paddle with. Some were really surprising. One of the surprises on this trip was the lead paddlers. One was a guy with a crushed up straw cowboy hat with a PFD and small pack dangling from his waist. His stroke was hard and choppy–full force every time, and looked like it would kill him in five miles. The pack wobbled around and banged his legs. He never changed his stroke, never relaxed, and went the whole way, fast, with no apparent effort other than a stroke that would leave me aching and breathless in a hundred yards.

Another surprise was a tall, slender, beautiful girl in a bikini named Krystyana Chelminski. She was on what looked to be a 10′ surfboard, her stroke was also forceful and not elegant–she stroked well past her feet and put her whole body into it. Another person I expected to see fade quickly. She was tireless, and when she decided to put the hammer down she was extremely hard to catch. Stunningly fast. The folks on the boat named her “superwoman”. Everyone was tremendously impressed with her athleticism, grace, endurance and her outrageous speed on a completely unsuitable board. She could probably be one of the stars of SUP racing, but she already has a demanding career as a musician. A violinist since age three, accepted to Julliard at age ten and stayed at Juilliard through college and graduate school. Owns a studio in NYC and plays a variety of instruments backing up famous musicians. An outrageous amount of talent in one person.

About a third of the way across a whale decided to add to the excitement, rolling and blowing ahead and to the left of us. As an inveterate gawker after sea life I had to get closer, so I broke from the group and paddled towards it. Fun to see, but my bad example was spreading the group out over the ocean, and our boat captains, concerned for safety, herded us back into a group they could keep an eye on. At about the halfway point we determined that we were way ahead of schedule. Arriving early at the beach in Provincetown could leave out a lot of the people who had taken the long drive to greet us and join the after party. We decided to maintain our pace but take longer breaks.

As we drew within sight of the turn into the bay leading to Provincetown (still a good three or four miles from the landing) the group stopped to do a paddle out circle in remembrance of my brother David, who passed away unexpectedly the day I arrived in Boston for the paddle. It was a moving tribute, my brother Bob and I didn’t have much to say other than thank you. It had been a tough few days. Our family encouraged our decision to press on with participating in the paddle. Best thing we could have done for ourselves. David was interested in doing SUP. He saw how much good it did for Bob and I. I wish I had done more to encourage him, it might have made a difference. He died of a heart attack while trying to help a guy who had run aground in a rented sailboat.

When we reached the long run in to Provincetown the channel was crowded with boats of every description, producing a crazy quilt of wakes and bumps. Our support boats hovered close, keeping the curious and sometimes clueless boaters from wandering through our pack. A harbor police boat joined us. There are some spectacular knuckleheads in boats. One guy in a mid-sized sailboat under power drove right through our group even though the police boat warned him off. On the beach a large group of guys yelled and hollered at us, and then mooned us.

We made the final turn, grouped up to attempt to reach the beach together, and it was over. Though I never felt any particular strain through the paddle I knew that one incautious move could cramp me up in several directions. I got one of my nieces to pull of my booties, but then leaned over to brush some sand off my shin and bam–ab cramps. Oh well.

Fine food at the Surf club, lots of Wachusetts beer, and great music from the Nate Mott band kicked off a party that lasted well into the early evening. A series of raffles and silent auctions awarded some great swag, including the Naish 14′ Glide, the custom Christopher’s Haven SUP from Vec surfboards and Twin Lights Glassing, Maui Jims sunglasses, a Kialoa paddle, Tracy Dudley and Rick Romano prints, 3 nights at the Hyatt Maui, Cape Cod Beach Chairs, and on and on….simply too much swag to list here.

Late Summer Paddle
The last event of the 2010 CCBC season was the Late Summer Paddle. Jason Cunio, Damion Houde and Dan Hassett pulled this one together. Dan owns Luminate Surf and Skate in Marshfield and became a major sponsor of the CCBC this year. This was an event to end the summer, September 11th in Humarock. A fun cruise/paddle on the south river, costumes were the order of the day. A beautiful day saw 60+ paddlers hit the water for the final event this year. Followed up with the requisite great party, steel drum reggae, lots of Wachusett of course, excellent pizza and apps, and tons more swag, Billabong wetsuits, MTI PFD’s, more Maui Jims, H2O Audio, Luminate T’s and hoodies. Ridiculous how much stuff the CCBC raffled or auctioned off this summer….raising over $6,000 with swag alone. Here’s a few pics from the Late Summer Paddle.

Dan's girlfriend Jess painted an awesome poster for the evnt

“Boardshorts” in his Thurston Howell the III persona…cigar and all


Thar be pirates!….(Hey Jerry…we missed you this year)

Get this party started

The Newport crew came for the fun

Jason got a little choked up at the mic…he knows all too well what the kids face with the challenge of childhood cancer. what a great addition to the CCBC family

Mike and Bob taking a moment to thank everyone for an amazing summer of events

The grand total raised for Christopher’s Haven from this years events was in excess of $70,000. Enough to support the stay of 15 kids and their families at the haven while they undergo treatment for cancer. For some of these kids the treatment received at Mass General Hospital is their last hope. I can’t imagine the pain their parents are experiencing.

The planning is getting underway for next years series of events…likely 5 or 6 next year. The Cape Cod Bay Challenge has become one of the premier events on the east coast and one that means so much more than most. It’s all about helping the kids, creating a sense of a CCBC family focused on helping others while they challenge themselves and have some fun doing it. Join us for next year..

Here’s a slideshow of all this years events.

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