Our Story

Doug McFadden

The Friendship Paddle was created in 2003. Doug McFadden, a 39 year old father of two children (ages 6 and 8) had been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. Unbeknownst to Doug, a large gathering of friends was organized, some from as far away as New York, to show their love and support for Doug during a lunch in his honor. The lunch was quite moving for Doug and several friends wanted to continue this type of support for Doug and his family. But what does one do for a friend fighting to experience the second half of his adult life?
When you grow up in Santa Barbara the ocean plays a big part in your life so it makes sense that friends have shared unforgettable, joyful experiences with you in the ocean. Watermen take to the ocean for soul searching, challenge and escape. For those looking to lift Doug up and infuse strength into his battle with cancer they took to the ocean.

That's when the light went off. Get a group of friends together to paddle across the channel in part to raise funds for Doug and his young family but also to show the support he needed to fight his disease. With the help of Tad Smyth, John Mosby, Mark Ingalls and Steve Berkus as team captains and Dave Kronen, Jay Stryker and Dave Ingalls as support crew they set out to organize 50 paddlers for the 24 mile crossing. Boats, food, t-shirts, rash guards and board shorts were donated and a large party of family and friends mobilized to celebrate Doug's life at the finish on Hope Ranch Beach.

The plan was to put teams of paddlers on separate boats and relay paddle across the channel. The boats crossed to Forney's Cove the day before, rafted up and a party broke out. Paul Kuhn cooked fresh scallops the size of silver dollars, kids lucky enough to get invited fished, guys paddled around the cove or kayaked to the beach and some went for an island hike, but everyone felt a love swirling through the air.

For Doug's paddle the weather forecast was for typically strong winds with big swells in the upper channel but the weather gods cleared the channel for an epic, calm and beautiful day . The boat captains commented how unusually tranquil the channel was for this most important crossing. We knew it calmed for Doug.

The landing that day changed lives. Gathering sand at Forney's Cove on the west end of Santa Cruz Island, dodging container ships in the shipping lanes and paddling 24 miles all the way to the beach, it was an epic journey. Not just for Doug McFadden and his wife and kids, but for every person there showering Doug and his family with love. After the all day paddle every person there felt deep emotion witnessing Doug make the last leg to the beach with his son, 4 brothers and Jeff Chase paddling next to him.

And so began The Friendship Paddle.

Doug McFadden

For the next three years Doug helped pick the beneficiary for each successive paddle. While he survived twice as long as the doctors predicted the core group kept organizing a different route tailored to the next beneficiary. More paddlers joined the fundraising and the corporate sponsor list grew. The planning of each paddle took on a life of it's own. The landing and "celebration of life" became unique for each year and each beneficiary.

Certain truths emerged for each paddle. The celebration of life at the beach landing became the "clincher". Anyone standing on the beach knowing what and who it was about can't have a dry eye. Strangers there to show support for the family can't help but tear up when the beneficiary team reaches the beach to hug the one they paddled for.

The paddlers of the beneficiary team congeal into a fundraising machine. They quickly learn that the family they are paddling for need them to get organized, raise money and get in shape for the challenge. It becomes apparent it is up to them to ask anyone, everyone, to support their massive effort for this family in crisis. For some it is hard to ask for money but, with their friend battling for their life, it suddenly becomes easy. They instantly learn nobody says no. Doors are not slammed in their faces, the dollars add up and the time spent getting in shape on the ocean is priceless. Aching muscles are insignificant compared to their friends pains.

Time spent with friends and strangers on boats at the islands united in one purpose is golden. Everyone works together to achieve a common goal. The paddle starts early and the momentum is built for the day. Soon the miles go by and all the reasons for preparation become evident. High fives, help with transitions, and offers of encouragement abound.

We have also noticed a beautiful surprise over the years. The beneficiary families have become our biggest cheerleaders. They have felt the effects of what the receiving experience gives to them and their kids. They see the effort put into the event, what it takes to make it successful and some become involved on different levels.

In a town of a thousand non-profits we have kept our organization under the radar. Our operating costs are covered so nearly 100% of the donations are passed on to the beneficiary.

Have a look around at our past paddles and know that any donation you give will greatly help a family we are crossing the channel for.


The Keiki Paddle

Keiki Paddle

To provide financial and emotional support to both a child with a life-threatening illness and a non-profit organization that supports children in Santa Barbara County. Children between the ages of 7 and 16 will participate in an open ocean paddle event to raise funds and awareness for these entities.

Visit them online at: www.keikipaddle.org





The Friendship Paddle
814 State Street, Suite 38
Santa Barbara, CA 93101


•  friendshippaddle@gmail.com


Board of Directors

•  Chip Blankenhorn
•  Tavis Boise
•  Kelly Smith
•  Ryan Zukor
•  Mike Randolph
•  John McFadden
•  Sean Hastings
•  Kas Seefeld
•  Kevin Cappon
•  Chris Snowden
•  Arick Fuller
•  Greg Kronen
•  Dylan Henderson

Advisory Board

•  Sean Robertson
•  John Mosby
•  Mark Ingalls
•  Tad Smyth
•  Steve Berkus
•  Tom Kronen
•  Jay Stryker
•  Dave Kronen
•  Paul Kuhn
•  Steve Campbell