Monday, August 16, 2010
He put the paddle to the metal - and finished the journey of a lifetime.
A California man went from Key West, Fla., to Battery Park City on a paddleboard, completing the harrowing 1,500-mile trip in just over 90 days to raise cash for his campaign to rid the ocean of plastic.
"Going out in the ocean and doing this campaign was a way for me to see how bad the situation was out there," said Tom Jones, 48, from Huntington Beach.
"Every day I was in the ocean I would see plastic bottles, food wrappers, all type of trash. It's incredible given the volume of the ocean."
He also saw the refuse during the physically exhausting trip into the city, where he was surrounded by tons of debris floating in the murky waters.
"Coming into New York City, where the waterways are tighter, the plastic is so dense," he said. "There's plastic forks, 5-gallon plastic buckets, bags, cups, all of that."
Jones left Florida on May 12 and hopes to raise half a million dollars for his nonprofit, Plastic Free Ocean.
It's an ambitious target, but he's no stranger to a challenge.
He says he has already paddleboarded 1,240 miles from Oregon to Mexico (video I/II/III) and ran 120 consecutive daily marathons from California to New York.
During this latest adventure, Jones hit an alligator in South Carolina and snagged his paddle on its hind leg.
He spotted a few sharks off New Jersey and was attacked by a horse fly.
A rescue worker traveled alongside him, passing him food, and a crew drove up the coast on land.
But the father of two was largely alone with his paddle and the unforgiving ocean, paddling on a strict schedule of more than 15 miles a day.
"The physical endurance was really tough," he said. "You didn't sleep if you didn't make it."
The toughest part, though, was leaving his children at home.
"I'm just looking forward to getting back home to them," he said.