I’ll be honest. I kinda suck at paddleboarding.
I like taking the board out on the lake around 2 PM on a Saturday. Drinking just enough beers that I can paddleboard without falling. Then calling it a day. We’re talking 2-3 miles, max. If I can score some queso at Hula Hut on the way home, that’s a perfect day. But that doesn’t fight cancer.
Luckily, Mark Garza and Rob McKinnie realized that four years ago. Together, they co-founded the event, Dam That Cancer, a 21-mile paddle the length of Lake Austin. The annual fundraising event raises money for The Flatwater Foundation, a non-profit that provides people with mental healthcare to cope with a cancer diagnosis. Mark and Rob realized that if you want to make a difference, you have to do something bold. Something like, paddleboard 21 miles.
Yes. 21 miles. That’s the distance from the steps of the Capitol in downtown Austin to the Ikea in Round Rock.
“Are you crazy?” That’s usually the first question. But then we explain why we do it — to kick cancer’s ass. And the second question is always the same: “Can I join you?”
And that’s how we grew to 75 paddlers. Each and every one of us has personally seen more than our fair share of cancer. Some of us have faced cancer head on, and won. Others have watched family and friends battle cancer, successfully and unsuccessfully, but always triumphantly.
So first, we commit to raising a minimum of $1500 each. The money we raise (over $100,000 last year) goes directly towards providing mental therapy for cancer victims and their families. The fundraising is the most important part of ‘Dam that Cancer.’ The paddling is simply a way to bring attention to the cause, but it’s the money we raise that provides the most relief – the most necessary part of healing.
And then, once we’ve all hit our fundraising goals, we keep our 21-mile promise. On a Monday morning, the quietest day on the lake, just minutes after sunrise, we set out. Together. Because Unity is Strength.
Padding as a group, focused and determined, we pace ourselves for a 10+ hour day. Fighting the finger cramps. Or the back strain. Or the tightness in our shoulders. Remembering the people who would give anything to be out there with us. And suddenly, there is no pain. Only smiles. And laughter. And joy.
And for 21 miles, there is no such thing as cancer.
2-Time Tyler’s Dam That Cancer Paddler
Find out more about The Flatwater Foundation, a Proud Partner of the LIVESTRONG Foundation.