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Standup paddlers to ride Lake Erie waves this weekend

By Sarah Ferguson, Fort Erie Times

Fort Erie resident John Fulton will compete in the North Shore Standup Paddleboard Race this weekend. The event starts in Port Colborne at Nickel Beach and finishes in Crystal Beach.

Fort Erie resident John Fulton will compete in the North Shore Standup Paddleboard Race this weekend. The event starts in Port Colborne at Nickel Beach and finishes in Crystal Beach.

There’s nothing John Fulton says he loves more than catching waves on Lake Erie.

“It's is an amazing resource that we have (in Fort Erie),” the 54-year-old Fort Erie resident said.

Fulton is no stranger to riding on Lake Erie. He is well-known to Fort Erie residents as Surfing Santa. Each year, Fulton puts on a Santa suit to embark on a windsurfing trip from the Canadian shores of Lake Erie to the U.S. shoreline in Buffalo.

He makes his journey to raise awareness of homelessness in Niagara.

But Saturday, Fulton will take a surfing trip for another reason. Fulton will be one of many participants competing in the 2nd annual North Shore Standup Paddleboard Race.

Organizer Katherine Balpataky says the event will attract 30 to 50 paddlers from across Ontario and the U.S.

Registration for the event is 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and the race will begin at 10 a.m.

“We will be launching at Nickel Beach in Port Colborne,” Balpataky says.

Participants of a five-km race will finish at Centennial Park on Cedar Bay Rd. A 10-kilometre route will finish at Pleasant Beach and a 20-km route will finish at Crystal Beach at about 3 p.m.

In case of inclement weather, a rain date has been scheduled for Sunday.

The event will conclude with an awards ceremony and a barbecue.

Balpataky says everyone is welcome to join the beach party at the Palmwood at Crystal Beach at the end of the event.

Volunteers will ensure transportation for paddlers to and from their vehicles after the event.

The friendly competition will raise funds for the freshwater coastline. Proceeds from the event will support Carolinian Canada’s Lake Erie Coastal Stewardship EcoTrail. The Erie Coastal Stewardship EcoTrail highlights natural and cultural treasures of Canada’s coastline from Essex to Niagara.

The EcoTrail, Balpataky says, holds “promise for re-invigorating tourism to the area.”

Pledges can be made at http://caroliniancanada.ca/events/lake-erie-north-shore-standup-2014

Balpataky says the event is geared toward endurance paddlers “who are charging up the sport.”

People who are new to the sport are welcome to “dip a toe” as the paddle board competition features routes of various lengths. On-shore events include a guided hike of Marcy’s Woods by the Bert Miller Nature Club on Sunday at 10 a.m., and beach restoration activities with a local surf club.

Darryl Austin, owner of Ausmosis Style on Board in Port Dalhousie, is sponsoring the event.

He says standup paddle boarding is gaining popularity and the surf community in Niagara is “truly special.”

“Standup paddle has absolutely exploded over the last decade, and it will only continue to grow, because it is exhilarating to stand on water, whether that water is flat or you are riding waves; and people of all paddling capabilities can do it,” he says.

For more information visit online at www.northshorestandup.ca or call Balpataky at 519-222-1178.

sarah.ferguson@sunmedia.ca

 

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