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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cape Cod Bay Challenge: A long Baja surf story and a legit reason to paddle.

Every now and then you hear something that embeds itself in your brain and you never forget it. Twenty years ago, I was camping at a remote Baja point break with a few friends when I was asked something I've never forgotten. This all happened way out in the bush. You had to work to get to it but once there you were guaranteed to surf with just your friends, the flies and the mice that infested the dunes (and the big black snakes that ate them). Still, it's an odd place to hear something and carry it with you all your life.

One day, a beat Chrysler sedan came bumping down the road. Believe me, sedans had no business being on that road- it was barely passable in our 4x4 trucks. The sedan reached the last dip in the road and was confronted with a hundred yards of soft sand. The sand was the last barrier to the prime, wind protected, waterfront camping spots. If you had a Baja rig, you'd shift down into four low and crawl across that trap. The sedan's driver, lacking the clearance, gearing or inhibitions of more cautious Baja travelers chose a different strategy. 

He floored it. That car slammed into that soft sand doing about forty. At first, it seemed like he'd pull it off, the nose of the thing went down and then up shooting a huge cloud of sand up into the air around it. That straight blast of speed was carrying the big sedan over the sand on sheer momentum. It all seemed good until the driver realized he had to make a small dogleg to avoid the last little dune that blocked his way. Momentum is great for straight line work, not so much when you want to turn- some laws just can't be broken. Bam! The auto bounced up onto the apex of that little dune, tottered for a minute and then just sat there, high centered ten yards from the edge the beach. The sedan had found its home and someone had a new campsite.

Somewhere I've got a photo of the kid that eventually came out of the car. After I finish writing this I'm going to see if I can dig it up for you. Myself, I don't need to see it. The impression he made on me is as clear now as it was twenty years ago. Klaus was wearing a skirt- actually it was a batik print sarong he picked up in Bali. He had no shirt but was wearing black dress socks and Teva sandals. The kid had a cigarette drooping between his lips, a weird little goatee and the best part, he'd taken a piece of cardboard, cut it into a big circle and forced his head through a hole carved out of the middle- that was his sun hat. What the hell was he doing out there?

It turns out Klaus was  on the road, he was traveling. Not like you and I travel. Klaus was on a three year trip around the world. This was the, I-spent-three-hundred-dollars-on-a-sedan-in-Chula-Vista-and-I'm-driving-it-to-Panama portion. You know, just that. Why he chose to drive all the way out to our surf spot, I have no idea. He had no surfboard with him. He traveled with cases of cigarettes,  boxes of crackers and some cans of oil packed mexican sardines. We on the other hand, were living comfortably with a plethora of carefully selected and packed food items, ice and beer. Which made Klaus happy because he was German, and he liked cold beer. He also liked to talk. 

I talked to Klaus quite a bit. I'd surf in the morning, eat breakfast, crack a beer and wait for him to come crawling out from the back seat of the sedan. He could never stay there past ten or so in the morning, it got too hot. So we'd sit in the shadow of one of the trucks, drink beer and he'd ask me questions about surfing and surfers. He just didn't quite get the whole surfing thing.  Yes, he could see it was great exercise, and yes it looked really fun and, okay, I see how beautiful the water is- all those things he was satisfied with. Then he dropped it on me. He said, "It is very selfish though, jah? (kind of like that if I remember correctly)" He continued, "You surf just for yourself, it's never for the benefit of anybody else- it's very narcissistic, jah?" 

You know, I'm a simple man. I eat, I drink, I laugh, I surf- I never really had thought about the "why" of it. This kid messed me up. I remember my answer, "No it's not." And Klaus shut up, after all Klaus liked cold beer. And he was no dummy. 

So, I know your asking yourself, what's the point (as if listening to another long Baja surf story requires a point... sheesh!)? The point is, I've found a great reason to get out and paddle. There is an event in August called the Cape Cod Bay Challenge, it's not a race it's a fundraising event to benefit Christopher's Haven, a home for children receiving cancer treatment in Boston. My friend Bob Babcock has done an excellent job creating and organizing the event. If you're like Klaus and you seek answers to the big questions- this might be something you'd like to do. Here's Bob's press release: 

The Cape Cod Bay Challenge began in 2008 when 8 paddlers, the 1st to ever paddle across the bay, raised $12,000 for charity. Our numbers have more than doubled each year and last year our paddlers raised in excess of $80,000 to help support kids with cancer. August 20th, 2011 will see the 4th Annual Cape Cod Bay Challenge. This year will be our 1st year landing in Wellfleet and facing an increased challenge of 34 miles. The CCBC is not a race, while there is a finish line, it's all about everyone making it across. Our focus is inspiration and the support of others, most especially the kids. Come join the family of CCBC paddlers from around the country and world that are crossing Cape Cod Bay to help support kids battling cancer.

The Cape Cod Bay Challenge launches August 20th pre-dawn from historic Plymouth. That afternoon and 34 miles later we land in Wellfleet to join the ongoing celebration. The CCBC is known for it's great parties and this year we are taking it up a notch.  We finish this year in Wellfleet to allow for a bigger and better party. Tents on the beach, a live band, demos and vendor booths, and cold Wachusett brews will make for a great time. Come join us and be treated to some great music, food, and camaraderie. Paddlers, family and friends can register for the event and the party at

In 2010 we expanded on the success of the CCBC by adding three other events that provide some fun competition and at the same time allow for almost anyone to participate.  This year we start our season June 11th with the Wellfleet SUPathalon. The SUPathalon is classic Cape Cod on one of the great beaches of the world and includes a race and surf contest. We continue on July 16th with our Challenge on the Charles, a 4 mile race from Community Boating in the basin of the Charles River next to the Hatch Shell and esplanade (of 4th of July and Boston Pops fame). The CCBC, the main event and detailed above, is on August 20th. Our final event of the season is in Marshfield, the Humarock Late Summa Paddle, a costume required cruise with a focus on fun. All of the events feature great parties and include raffles and auctions of great gear thanks to our generous sponsors. We'll be raffling a new 14' Naish Glide, Maui Jims sunglasses, Kialoa paddles, Cape Cod Beach Chairs, Barefoot Wines, artwork and much more. You’ll find the registration pages for all our events at

All proceeds from the CCBC and other events will benefit Christopher’s Haven, a 501-c3 non-profit dedicated to providing housing for kids that come to Boston from around the world to undergo cancer treatment. The haven can house up to 7 families at a time in a comfortable homelike atmosphere and help relieve some of the strain during a very difficult time. Christopher’s Haven is a home for kids when cancer hits home.
For detailed information on all the events and for more on paddling, sponsoring, or to donate visit our website at

Thanks again,

Bob Babcock

1 comment:

Bob said...

Thanks John...nicely done, love the usual. Only's not just me. My buddy Mike Brown and I co-found the CCBC and we have a great board and volunteers that have helped us grow this into what it is today. Hard to believe how important this has become. Here's why we do it.