Armed with paddles, whey protein, advanced communications and sheer seagoing determination, two Little Compton residents plan to travel roughly 2,200 east coast miles on stand-up paddleboards for two causes this year.
Starting on March 1, Mike Simpson, 41, and Will Rich, 28, will leave Key West, FL, on a journey to Portland, ME, to advocate and raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project and SUP Clean-Up (Stand Up For a Cleaner Ocean). Both men will be stopping in various areas to meet with local coastal cleanup organizations. They leave for Florida tomorrow.
Their journey is dubbed SUP the Coast, as in stand-up paddle.
“We’ve grown up on the sea,” Simpson said. “I’ve always wanted to do a big trip. Might as well start on the east coast.”
Simpson, a Little Compton native, and Rich, originally from Gloucester, MA, will be using a SPOT GPS Messenger to communicate on numerous platforms while traveling. Team member Mimi Whitmarsh, of Little Compton, will be on land on the receiving end of communication, serving as a lifeline and public relations conduit.
Simpson said he arrived at the idea last September after deciding that instead of doing a big trip for himself, he should apply it to something meaningful while cruising the ocean for sport. A skilled surfer and surf kayaker, stand-up paddleboarding is what Simpson calls a hybrid of the two. He stands up on the base of the long board like a surfer, holding a paddle, while negotiating turns on a bow similar to a kayak.
“Mike brought it up, and I was all for it,” Rich said about the trip.
Simpson said he applied online to the Wounded Warrior Project and the organization called him back the same day. The nonprofit supports today’s service men and women returning from duty.
The paddlers hope to raise $25,000 for just the Wounded Warrior Project and have so far raised $2,000. Using Facebook, Twitter and their blog, Simpson and Rich plan to organize coastal cleanups with other SUP groups along the trip in advance of their next stop. Simpson added they were not sure if they will raise funds for SUP Clean-Up, but will contribute aid efforts to the coastal ecosystems they encounter.
“We want to meet everyone we can,” Simpson said. “We’re being stewards of the ocean.”
Members of Surfrider Foundation and other groups have also talked to the paddlers, who plan to join them on the water during the trip.
Simpson and Rich will be carrying between 30 and 100 pounds of gear on their boards while paddling. They said the trip will cost roughly $20,000, depending on the food situation. The custom, 17.5-foot long stand-up BARK paddleboards alone cost about $3,000 apiece, Simpson said.
Rich added they plan to average 15 to 30 miles a day.
“Some days will be different depending on the Gulf Stream and the wind,” he said.