The morning light glistened on the water as the Rev. Alan Akridge gently pushed his paddle through the waters of Gould’s Inlet. Next to him, his son Harrison stood, as the soft St. Simons Island waves rocked his board.
It’s a scene the duo has created countless times. But this weekend, they will be recreating this picture in a slightly different setting — the waters of the Atlantic ocean.
The two are undertaking a daunting task over Father’s Day weekend. They will be paddling in a long distance challenge for charity called Crossing for a Cure. The international race takes paddlers 80 miles across the Gulf Stream from Bimini in the Bahamas back to Lake Worth, Fla., on the mainland.
The event will include roughly 200 paddleboarders who will be raising money for cystic fibrosis. It was a cause close to the Akridges hearts.
Alan, who is the rector at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Brunswick, has a parishioner who is battling the illness. He and Harrison took part in a charity paddle for her last year, raising nearly $10,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. That trek, a 111 mile journey from Key Largo to Key West, was dubbed Starboard to Fort and took place in 2017. Their success got the attention of Crossing for a Cure organizers who reached out to the Akridges, inviting them to join the event.
“The Keys thing happened kind of by accident. I had just turned 50 and Harrison turned 16, so we were looking for something to do. The young woman that it started with Charlotte Snyder, who is a member of our parish. She has cystic fibrosis but she has a really great attitude,” Alan said.
“The folks from Crossing for a Cure actually reached out to us after we did the Keys. At first we thought, there’s no way we’d do the ocean. It’s a whole other thing but they stayed in touch with us and right around Easter, we decided we’d do it.”
But they had a condition. While they were more than happy to raise money for cystic fibrosis, they also wanted to generate funds for cancer research.
“My brother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer, and we have four members of our parish family who are suffering from cancer. It’s different stages and different forms, but both cancer and cystic fibrosis are part of our family landscape,” Alan said.
“So we talked to the organizer and said that we would do it, if we could split the money between any kind of cancer and cystic fibrosis. He said, ‘That is a great idea.’”
So the Akridges were on board — literally. The money they raise will benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation as well as a local cancer charity and one in Kentucky. Donations made for Harrison will benefit cancer research and money gifted for Alan will go to cystic fibrosis.
Donations may be made at http://www.saintmarksepiscopal.com/crossing-for-a-cure.
“Our landing page attached to our (St. Mark) website and gives you the option to donate through Crowdrise, which is Go Fund Me,” Alan explained. “If you support Harrison, it will go to the Hugh Nunnally Cancer Center here and the EC Green Cancer Center in Hawkinsville, K.Y., which is where my brother-in-law is.”
While it will certainly be a huge physical challenge, it’s something they are excited to undertake. And hopefully, they will have a little help from nature (not to mention the man upstairs).
“The race is designed and timed to take advantage of the calmest seas in that area. The gulf stream, I’m hoping, will speed us up,” Alan said.
The two plan to bring two boards of their own, perhaps working solo or as a relay team depending upon the conditions.
“We may do it solo, but I don’t know. We will have a chase boat there in case I konk out,” Alan said with a laugh.
But with their experience, that is unlikely. The Akridges, who have always been water-enthusiasts, have been paddling for years.
“We kind of got into it when we moved here 10 years ago. I have a younger daughter and my wife ... we’ve always spent time on the water,” Alan said.
“I’ve probably been paddling for about seven years ... such a great sport for this area.”
For Harrison, the past time is a fun way to enjoy the outdoors but also to bond with his father. They spend weekends hitting local waterways as well as traveling to Fernandina Beach, Fla., or Coco Beach, Fla., for excursions.
But adding the service and charitable portion to their passion for paddle boarding. And this Father’s Day mission will only serve to strengthen it all.
“The first trip in the Keys, I couldn’t get over how close it allowed my dad and I to get and how it allowed our families (the Snyders and Akridges) to get closer,” Harrison said.
“And now that my uncle has cancer and a couple of people in our church have it as well, we see it as a way to get closer to them and let them know that they’re not alone. Aside from that, it’s really fun.”