Friendship Paddle 2016
As I sat in the chemo chair yesterday I couldn’t stop thinking about this past weekend and the amazing energy and love that was felt by all and channeled to Ethan, Anna and Sawyer. I have not stopped smiling and my energy is radiating positivity and love. I am so impressed by the guys that put this event together and their ability to navigate each and every issue from weather to landings to boats and captains. Thank you Paul Kuhn, Dave Kronen, John McFadden, Tom Kronen, Kelly Smith, Jon Ford, Steve Campbell, Sheldon Pfeifer, Mike Randolf, Jay Stryker, Tavis Boise, and Sean Hastings.
This year the wind stopped us from heading out to the islands but it did not stop the event. Instead we headed up the coast and spent the night at Drakes at Hollister Ranch. We didn’t make it to shore so instead we all convened on three boats rafted together. The energy was pumping, the smiles a mile wide and love was exploding. I was so excited to spend some time with Michelle Grinsel, last year’s paddle recipient. Last year we both said in years to come Tara would be paddling for Tara and Michelle would be paddling for Michelle and this year it came true even though we are both still working our way through our cancer journey. I am so looking forward to the day that Ethan, Michelle and I will be having a massive hug and love fest when we are all NO EVIDENCE OF DISEASE!
I’ve never been up the coast that far and it is absolutely breathtaking. The beaches are pristine, the coastline stunning and the kelp is magnificent. I’m sure the boat captains would beg to differ about magnificent as they struggled to cut it off the anchors on Saturday morning but truly it is beautiful.
Team TSFC was back on the Athena this year with our fantastic Captain Pamela Thiene and our amazing first mates, Alan Watson and Mike Cooney! We were so lucky to have our first mates as they dealt with the kelp on the anchor, engine problems due to kelp, drove the dinghy and constantly picked up and put back our boards into the water. Thank you Pam for once again hosting us on your beautiful boat, being a part of our team and fully jumping all in to the Friendship Paddle family.
We left the Santa Barbara Harbor at about 10am on Friday morning. My team of beautiful ladies, April Medina-Watson, Serena Weddle, Cara Chiarappa, Kristie Chapman and Nicole Herlihy began to reconnect and reminisce about the previous year’s paddle. All of our lives are moving at lightning speed with kids, school, practices, homework, tournaments, birthdays, work, social engagements and more, so to come together for this one weekend gives us the time to connect on a much deeper level. It is truly a gift. One of my favorite moments of the weekend was Saturday night after the gathering. We were sitting around the table on the Athena and getting ready to play games when I realized we had not taken our ceremonial shot of tequila yet. Before taking our shot I asked that each of those on the boat say something they are grateful for. I wanted to share my teams words with you:
Serena Weddle: “I am grateful for my paddle sisters and my paddle Ohana. This event has continued to bring us all together over the last 4 years and I wouldn’t have been able to push myself to train and do this event if it wasn’t for you.”
Cara Chiarappa: “I am grateful for my immediate family, my paddle family, and our amazingly giving and loving community.”
Nicole Herilhy: “I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in this emotional event with people I may not see on a daily basis but who remind me what courage, strength, community, and love can accomplish. I’m honored, humbled and inspired.”
Kristie Chapman: ” I am grateful for each one of you and for the opportunity to be a part of this event. We are so fortunate to be a part of such a big-hearted and selfless community. And it’s an honor to paddle alongside you ladies.”
April Medina-Watson: “I am grateful for Tara & what her journey has taught, inspired and brought to my life. I have never stepped out of my comfort zone as much as I did 4 paddles ago. I would have never done that had I not been inspired by someone going through a life changing experience where they didn’t have that opportunity (that day that is!) to do so themselves. I am grateful to be a part of a group of women that still is on this journey of support except that we now do it with Tara. Irreplaceable magic. I am grateful that one of my favorite “girl” boy friends from high school married so well and made it the best two for one deal ever.”
As for me I am grateful for so many things but first and foremost I am grateful to be alive. I am grateful to wake up in the morning, to be able to get out of bed and live my life. I am so incredibly grateful for my family, friends and community for supporting me, my husband and two beautiful girls, from the moment we found out the news that changed the course of our lives forever. I am grateful for the Friendship Paddle for opening their arms to us and crushing us with love. The love and healing that comes from this epic energy is immeasurable as April said it is “Irreplaceable Magic.” I am grateful for each and every one of you that lift me up everyday in your thoughts, prayers and energy.
After our ceremonial tequila shot we proceeded to laugh ourselves silly as we played cards against humanity. We certainly learned some new vocabulary. As the evening wound down we all headed to bed nervous and excited for what tomorrow would bring. Would it be a windy, choppy, crazy day or would we wake up to glass? Morning came quick and when I headed to the deck to check out the day it was beautiful with no wind, calm seas and the sun rising. So blessed.
The start of the paddle is always emotional. This year we did a water start. Paddlers circled up around Ethan while Eric Fuller made some beautiful remarks to get us thinking about why we were all together and the goodness that comes from lifting each other up. Before everyone sets out on their paddle journey they send one paddler out for each recipient starting with Doug McFadden. This is the third year I have been able to paddle for myself and I can only hope that I will be paddling for myself for many years to come. This year was more of a challenge for me as I dislocated my ankle on August 12th and I found out about 2 weeks ago that I have a torn ligament on the outside, a partially torn ligament on the inside, and major bone bruising. I started physical therapy and the doctors orders were no standing up on the paddle board since my ankle is so unstable. I had to modify so I headed out on my knees and wow that is much harder! I switched between my knees and butt and did a leg on the prone board and let me tell you if you are not in good swimming or surfing shape the prone board is a real killer! I was not going to let my ankle issues stop me from taking part in the paddle. I could have just stayed on the boat and cheered on everyone else but life isn’t about sitting on the sidelines it is about jumping in with all you have to give and going for it!
Cara and I headed out for the first leg of the paddle. I found out quickly that paddling on your knees for an extended period of time was not as easy as I had hoped. My legs were on fire and my ankle wasn’t super happy with the position but I was moving forward and Cara was not leaving me behind.
Nicole and Kristie took the second leg of the adventure.
Followed by Serena and Cara as April was struck with a migraine and needed to get some rest before hitting the water.
Throughout the day we rotated in increments of 30-45 minutes as we made our way to Miramar Beach for the landing. Each time I was in the water and feeling the pain of my legs and ankle and thoughts of giving up creeped into my mind I would tell myself this is nothing compared to what I have been through so far, this is nothing compared to what Ethan is going through and visualized each and every stroke sending healing energy into my body, infiltrating all of my cells, building up the healthy ones and obliterating the unhealthy, taking me one step closer to optimum health. I thought about all of those I was taking with me on this paddle journey and knew they were with me in spirit and would help to get me to the end.
Cara and I were lucky to have started off the paddle and to have completed the last leg of the paddle. As we were getting closer and closer to Miramar and just about at Hammonds I saw everyone circling up and getting ready for Ethan and Anna to lead everyone into shore. I knew we probably were not going to make in time for the grand entrance and I saw the dinghy headed over to us for a quick transport to the finish but I said to Cara and Adrian they are not picking us up and moving us forward I am going to finish off this paddle on my own. I was tired, thirsty and feeling a bit out of it but I had to forge ahead, I was not going to give up and there was only ONE WAY I was going to make into shore and that was on my board. We made it just in time to follow in the pack to shore. TEAM TSFC had done it again. We paddled in altogether and soaked in the massive amounts of good energy and love. I think Ethan said it best “HOLY SHIT!”
Thank you to everyone that sponsored TEAM TSFC as of today we have raised $15,425 for Ethan and his family and the total raised by the paddlers is over $137,000! Holy Shit is right. So incredible to see such generosity and goodness. If sure feeds the soul. There is still time to donate just go to: http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/tara-haaland-ford/the-friendship-paddle-2016.
Love to you all. Hugs and Kisses