Kayakers paddle from Key West to Cuba to help island nation

Cuba to Key West kayak
In an attempt to help spur growth in the island nation, Cotopaxi had four teams of kayakers paddle from Cuba to Key West. Photo: Cassandra Allred

As you may have heard, earlier this month the United States reopened its Cuban embassy for the first time in over 54 years. So, to celebrate the continued growth towards diplomatic relations between the two countries and to help support local businesses in Cuba, outdoor apparel company Cotopaxi came up with a plan: paddle the 113 miles between Cuba and Key West, in a kayak.

As of yesterday, they successfully accomplished that goal:

Writer Brent Rose of Gizmodo and former collegiate rower and journalist Frank Sedlar arrived at the southernmost tip of the United States after more than 34 hours of continuous paddling.

They were one of four tandem kayak teams organized by Cotopaxi. Due to harsh conditions on the first night of paddling, all the other tandem teams had to be taken out of the water by support boats (the other teams re-entered the water after the seas calmed, but only Sedlar and Rose stayed in the water the whole time).

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The event was part of Cotopaxi’s Challenge 113, which was established in hopes of highlighting the beauty of Cuba while simultaneously helping local entrepreneurs grow their businesses through advising and charitable donations.

“My hands are bloodied and blistered and I can just barely lift my arms,” Rose wrote on Gizmodo following the completion of his paddle. “Everything seems very surreal right now, and the whole crossing (of the Florida Straits) seems like some insane dream I had. I’m happy to be alive, grateful for this opportunity, and humbled by the ocean and mother nature, now more than ever.”

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While the business advisors Cotopaxi sent over to Cuba have already returned, you can still help raise funds for Cuban development by joining Challenge 113’s page on the Charity Miles app. For every mile you run between now and Nov. 3, each one of Charity Miles’ partners will donate $.025 to Challenge 113’s cause.

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