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.
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.
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.
"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
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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.