Miami Paddle-Boarders Go 300 Miles for Charity

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Courtesy of Ben Thacker
Paddle boarding the west coast of Florida.
You've seen them along South Beach canals like Venetian gondoliers. You've witnessed them in the ocean and Bay, a cross-breed of kayaker and surfer. Yup. The paddle-boarder. But never before have you seen them like this. Two Miami natives are traveling from Tampa Bay to Key Largo. Three-hundred miles. On paddle-boards.

Chip Walter and Ian Wogan are both from the Cutler Bay area. Chip owns a construction firm, Ian is finishing up a degree at FIU in agroecology, both love paddle-boarding. In the hopes of raising funds and awareness for urban gardens, the two are currently partaking in the Everglades Challenge, a grueling, unsupervised cross-state water race, usually reserved for kayaks, canoes, and small boats.

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Courtesy of Ben Thacker
Paddle Board at sunset.
Chip and Ian are the first ever to do it on paddle-boards. Why? Besides for the challenge, and their obvious craziness, they want to raise funds for Miami's Troy Gardens.

Ben Thacker is the Horticulture program coordinator at Troy Gardens. He describes the importance of such eco-inner-city programs on students and the community. "Urban agriculture/horticulture therapy programs like Gardens of TROY are important because they provide inner city youth with a positive means of self-expression, as well as regular access to fresh, nutritious food. They learn skills that help them find jobs, or start their own businesses, and they learn patience and respect for nature."

Meanwhile, somewhere in the Everglades, two paddle-boarders on a journey no less adventuresome than Ulysses in The Iliad are practicing both patience with a respect for nature. They paddle ten-plus hours per day, depending on the weather, confrontations with snakes, and other natural hindrances. At night they camp in high tech mosquito proof hammock tents that they hang from mangrove trees. Cool, huh? Nonetheless, conditions have been less than ideal with a pre-dominant south by southeast wind; in addition, paddle-boarding is no easy task, one uses their entire body to balance, steer, and propel the board. Granted, the two have been training for quite awhile but nothing compares to the actual experience.

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Courtesy of Ben Thacker
10 hours a day.
"I'm pretty sure they are questioning their judgment by this point," Thacker explains. "But they are not going to give up too easy, I'm sure of that." So far their effort has paid off. The boys have raised a couple of grand, through pledges from corporate sponsors, friends, family, and a public sendoff party at Sandbar. They hope to reach five thousand dollars in support for Troy Gardens. More info on their endeavor can be found here.

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