Dealing with tragedy

Chris Norman, left, who won the overall race, and Fielding Pagel, who was the standup-paddleboard winner, were devastated by the drowning death of friend Cody Iorns during a paddleboarding session in the Cheseapeake Bay last week.

Defending champions Steve Dullack, Chris Norman and Fielding Pagel are among a record 51 competitors registered for Sunday’s 17-mile Cape to Cape Paddle.

Dullack, from Virginia Beach, Virginia, won the OC-1 (Outrigger Canoe) division in 2018. Norman and Pagel, both from Annapolis, Maryland, took top honors in the surf ski and standup paddleboard divisions, respectively.

Athletes will board a Cape May-Lewes Ferry vessel in Lower Township at 6:30 a.m. for the ride across the Delaware Bay, then make the 17-mile return trip from Cape Henlopen, Delaware, aboard prone and standup paddleboards, surf skis and one- and two-person outrigger canoes (OC-1s and OC-2s).

The finish line is at Queen Street Beach in Cape May.

In addition to the returning champions, the field includes former winners such as Patrick Kennedy (surf ski single), Josette Lata (women’s standup) and Jonny Skolnick (men’s prone). Other local favorites include Todd DeSatnick, Sean Duffey and Dean Randazzo, a former professional surfer who will make his Cape to Cape debut.

Proceeds from the event go to the DeSatnick Foundation, a nonprofit organization geared toward helping those with spinal cord injuries.

Race organizer Chad DeSatnick started the foundation after shattering the C6 and C7 vertabrae in his neck while surfing in Cape May on Sept. 30, 2001.

The idea for the race took hold in 2006, when Chad’s brother Todd convinced three friends — North Wildwood lifeguards Tom Edwards and Lew Ostrander, and Atlantic City surfer Mike May — to join him in crossing the bay on prone paddleboards.

In addition to the main race, 25 people have registered to participate in a 4-mile recreational paddle from Cape May Point to Cape May. That event starts at 10:45 a.m. at Coral St. Beach in Cape May Point.

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