Wall Street Traders Stand Against Autism in Paddling Race Around Manhattan – Bloomberg @SurfersHealing


Wall Street Traders Stand Against Autism in Paddling Race Around Manhattan

By Eben Novy-Williams – Aug 12, 2011 12:00 AM ET

Dan Jones wasn’t planning to wear a tie to work today. Instead, the managing director of mortgage sales and trading at Gleacher & Co. Securities was going to wear shorts and paddle around Manhattan standing up on an oversized surfboard.

Jones, who works with Descap, Gleacher’s mortgage and structured products division, will join about 200 other competitors, professional and amateur, in the O’Neill SEA Paddle NYC, a 26.5-mile stand-up paddle charity race.

“Paddling through skyscrapers has a surreal feel to it,” Jones, who also competed in the race in 2009, said in a telephone interview. “We’re also going through parts of Manhattan that most New Yorkers never see.”

The race originated in 2007 with fewer than 40 participants and has grown along with the sport, which retailers, rental sites and participants say is expanding. At New York Kayak Co. on Pier 40 along Manhattan’s West Side, where today’s race starts, stand-up paddle sales have quintupled in 12 months, and Jones, 43, said he has at least 10 colleagues in his office who are practicing or shopping for paddleboards.

Every participant in the race is required to raise at least $1,000 to be split between the Surfers’ Environmental Alliance and eight autism charities. Last year the event raised more than $400,000, according to race co-founder and SEA executive director Andrew Mencinsky.

Foundations like Surfers Healing that use the sport to enrich the lives of children with autism are what drew him to the idea five years ago, Mencinsky said.
‘Wow’ Factor

“There’s a saying, ‘Only a surfer knows the feeling,’” he said. “But when you are able to stand on a beach as a non- surfer and you see surfers taking out kids who normally wouldn’t be doing anything like this, you see the joy and the therapy that it brings them, you automatically say wow, this is pretty relevant.”

Samantha Cerone, a hedge-fund analyst who specializes in distressed assets, has trained for the race by getting in the water four times a week, in New Jersey on weekends and in Manhattan during the week.

“As soon as my portfolio manager would leave I would get out of the office immediately, head downtown and try to be in the water by 7 o’clock,” Cerone, 27, said in a telephone interview.

Cerone, who left Schultze Asset Management LLC last month to pursue a business degree at Columbia University, started stand-up paddling two years ago and competed in the race last year. Struggling to finish in the East River, she witnessed seaplanes landing to her right as she passed the United Nations building.
‘Immensely Surreal’

“That was immensely surreal,” she said. “You still have this feeling that you’re not really supposed to be there. That really appeals to me.”

Jones, who has been training mostly on weekends in Spring Lake, New Jersey, was the race’s top fundraiser in 2009, donating more than $30,000 by auctioning off the right for friends and colleagues to choose his outfit and board decorations. The result was a neon green mankini, a fake mustache, a yarmulke and flags of Texas and Puerto Rico.

This year he sent out the same list of opportunities, and after discounting the prices, raised around $2,000.

“A lot of guys I know that would have normally participated or attended dropped out because of the market and economy,” Jones said in an e-mail.
Top Racers

The race has a general category and an elite category, which will feature about 35 of the sport’s top racers, including Rob Rojas and defending-champion Thomas Maximus Shahinian, who finished in 3 hours, 56 minutes last year. Participants have come from as far away as Hawaii, New Zealand and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Mencinsky said.

New York Kayak Co.’s stand-up paddle sales are now between 15 percent and 20 percent of the company’s business, according to owner Randall Henriksen, who is planning larger involvement with the sport. He declined to give specific figures. O’Neill spokesman Brian Kilpatrick said in a telephone interview that the clothing company’s stand-up paddle appointments at Outdoor Retailer, a four-day outdoor trade show with about 1,300 exhibitors, quadrupled this year from 2010.
Expanding Sport

The sport has expanded to cover surfing, racing, recreation and white-water events. Kilpatrick said its popularity has grown because it’s easy to learn and isn’t geographically limiting.

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