Friends make a stand for clean water

Friends make a stand for clean water
Clay Walking Eagle (left) and Tim Warner practice for an expedition that will take them from bridge to bridge. They plan to paddle from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco to San Diego’s Coronado Bridge to raise money for charity. Photo by Jared Whitlock

CARLSBAD — 20-foot waves, strong winds and sharks — these are some of the dangers Carlsbad residents Clay Walking Eagle and Tim Warner could soon face.“A book of unknowns is being opened,” Warner said. “But the risks are more than worth it.”On March 2, the duo will stand-up paddleboard from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco to the Coronado Bridge in San Diego to raise money and awareness for the global water crisis.

An estimated 4,100 children die every day from water-related diseases, according to the men’s charity of choice called Charity: Water, a nonprofit that digs wells and brings clean water to developing nations.

While teaching in Mozambique, Warner saw firsthand how water shortages and cleanliness issues devastated communities.“I experienced not being able to turn on a faucet and how hard it is to get water in those areas,” said Warner, a South Africa native. “With the economic level, the people don’t have money to buy adequate water-filtration systems. So they drink unpurified water full of water-born illnesses and water-born parasites and get very sick.”The men originally planned on kayaking from San Francisco to San Diego for fun. But the trip took on a new meaning when they realized they had a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity on their hands.

“Everyone has to work to pay the bills, including us,” said Walking Eagle, who’s a filmmaker and photographer. “We figured out we had a short window of time where we somehow have the resources and availability to pull this off.”

The men grew up fishing and surfing, but neither had tried stand-up paddleboarding until five months ago. Adding to an already great challenge, they’re beginning their journey during the tail end of winter — when the ocean is at its most unpredictable. The swells are bigger, sharks are out in full force and the wind direction changes often, which can make stroking through the ocean that much more difficult. Still, the men couldn’t resist “a life-changing adventure” and unique way to draw attention to their cause.

“We want to raise $5,000 to build a well that will provide water for over 200 people,” Warner said. “It’s a long-lasting supply of water, not something that will dry up fast. We’ll try and raise more if we can.”

The duo hopes to cover 20 miles each day by paddling for five or six hours. They’ll be around 300 yards offshore on average when paddling. If the weather cooperates, they expect to reach San Diego in about 25 days.

“We’ll try and catch some waves along the way, too,” Warner said.
The men will camp on the coastline for most of the journey. Thanks to corporate sponsors, they have everything from tents to paddleboards.

To prepare for the nearly 500-mile expedition, the duo trained almost every day for more than four months. With the help of elite stand-up paddleboarder Chuck Glynn, they perfected their paddling technique at the wind-protected Agua Hedionda Lagoon in Carlsbad. But they spent most of their time in the ocean, exposing themselves to big waves and rough conditions as often as possible.

Because they’ll be paddling through the Red Triangle, an area around San Francisco known for shark-infested waters, they also consulted a shark expert.

“We were told we likely have a 50 percent chance of seeing a shark,” Walking Eagle said. “But I guess there’s only a one percent chance one will try and attack us. If it happens, we know to just remain calm and push off slowly if they get too close. Easier said than done, that’s for sure.”

The entire journey, including any sharks, will be documented by a small crew of cameramen who are following the duo. They’ll also be tailed by a boat with supplies and medical equipment. Once the expedition is complete, they plan on releasing a “Bridge to Bridge” documentary to further raise awareness about the global water crisis.

“People are going to learn about an important issue by watching the film,” Walking Bear said. “They’ll also see an iconic coastline. Mostly, people will see pure, unadulterated passion.”

Go to bridgetobridgefilm.com to donate or get updates on the men’s expedition.

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