BELLINGHAM - Gusting winds couldn't stop paddlers from hitting Lake Padden in the spirit of giving back.
On Saturday, Oct. 13, roughly 40 paddlers and an assortment of family and friends gathered for the 5th Annual Paddle for Food event, created to raise food and money for the Bellingham Food Bank. Peter Marcus started the event in 2008 to find a way to give back.
"We totally threw it out one day, and were like, 'Hey, let's do this,' and all of the sudden we had 20 to 25 people to do it," Marcus said. "It gives everybody an opportunity to come down and write a check to the food bank or donate food."
Although everything at the event is done in the spirit of giving, the relay race itself is still important.
Because of the blowing winds and rain, Marcus decided to make the race shorter than in years past, having teams complete seven laps instead of the usual 10 on the designated course at Lake Padden. Marcus structures the race so relay teams consist of a wide range of skill levels to even the playing field.
Duncan Howat, the general manager of the Mount Baker Ski Area, was happy to win the event with his chosen team, and added that the nature of the event is what makes it exciting.
"The race itself is fun because you never know who is going to be on your team," Howat said.
And there is a bit of gamesmanship during the race, too. DJ Jacobson, after his leg of the relay, jokingly positioned himself between one racer and another so they had to run around him to pass the water bottle masquerading as a baton.
"We encourage smack talk," Jacobson said.
And despite the conditions and a lower turnout than in past years, Marcus said those who did donated a total of nearly $3,000, and between 400 and 500 pounds of non-perishable food.
But for those few diehards committed to ski-surfing and paddling, the gusty winds made for an exciting ride.
"To be out here on a day like today - cold, rainy and windy - you got to be a bit messed up in the head," Jacobson said. "Weather like this is what we live for."
Jacobson is a competitive ski surfer, and revels in days when the winds reach upwards of 25 mph.
But the sentiment from all those in attendance was excitement to provide for their community.
"It's a little reminder that people are hungry out there," Jeff Hegedus said.