Mark Carter of Milton, Delaware, had an inspiration a few months ago. A longtime member of the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal Improvement Association, his imagination was captured by plans for the new Grove Park Canal Dock Park project, currently under construction near his home. With some lockdown time on his hands, last March he ordered a kit for a San O’ 16 prone paddleboard and set to work building it, aiming for an epic effort to raise money and attention for the park construction.

Carter says he spends a lot of time in the water, and has built Grain surfboards he uses often. He had his eye on a prone board for a while, and with access to a good shop space and some incentive cash earned from his employer for completing other fitness challenges in his pocket, he went for the San O' kit in March.

He also began some pretty serious training – because he was planning a 25-mile paddle from the Indian River Inlet north along Delaware’s Atlantic Ocean beaches, around Cape Henlopen, across the mouth of Delaware Bay to the Roosevelt Island Inlet in Lewes, with a final leg south along the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal to the future dock park in Rehoboth Beach, as a fund raiser for the park.

Paddling 25 miles in a kayak or on a stand-up paddleboard is a serious challenge itself, but doing it prone, using only one’s arms and shoulders, is well beyond the ability of most mere mortals.

San O’ design partner, veteran ocean paddler, and fitness guru Larry Froley described it as the equivalent of swimming a basic crawl stroke without the use of one's legs. “Using those small muscles makes the endurance part much harder," Froley explained. "Unlike SUP, where you can paddle continuously, with prone your arms will fail after a certain number of strokes and you’ll have to take micro rests throughout any significant distance.” 

Carter achieved the remarkable feat on Saturday, August 11, finishing the 25-mile route in just over seven hours. He reported that the direction of the swell, tide, and wind were all in his favor from inlet to inlet, although he picked up a bit of a headwind as he closed on the finish line. A veteran of the US Marine Corps, Carter wasn’t even thinking about quitting; relaxing a bit before he let the tide float him past the future park, he actually had to stop to wait for the support flotilla accompanying him to catch up.

Carter said, "It was really fun in a weird way." Although his arms and back held up to the challenge, he said the pressure on his chest after many hours of prone paddling was becoming uncomfortable, as was the sun on his hamstrings, despite plenty of sunscreen.

The effort was a success in other ways, too. From his role as Director of Beer & Benevolence for the Dogfish Head Brewery, Carter is experienced in creative fund raising for community causes. The GoFundMe page he set up, with a goal of raising $10,000 for the park, actually passed that goal to raise nearly $12,000 so far.

"When I got done," Carter said, "I realized at the dock that it was only 10 more miles to have done the full circuit." Although he wondered at the time -- briefly -- if he should have tried for the whole circumnavigation, he's now thinking of how to best use that last 10-mile stretch for another fund raising challenge. Stay tuned ....