Mike Rogers puts himself through agony to help those who can't avoid it.
For the fourth year in a row, the 48-year-old Costa Mesa resident has paddled the 32 miles from Catalina Island to Manhattan Beach to raise money for cancer research.
For 6 hours and 46 minutes on Sunday, alternately lying or kneeling on his 12-foot paddleboard, Rogers propelled himself across the ocean amid 60 other contestants in the annual Catalina Challenge paddleboard race.
"You're in so much pain, it's like putting your finger in a light socket and keeping it there," Rogers said of the ordeal.
But he sees his discomfort as a faint echo of what cancer patients endure daily.
"About two hours into the race I'm in so much pain I want to give up," he said. "I just started chewing on Nuprins and thought, 'There's no way I can quit. My wrists aren't broken. I can keep going.' "
The Catalina Challenge has been held off and on since 1952; Rogers decided to make the race his personal fund-raiser--Paddle for the Cure--four years ago in honor of his father-in-law, Robert Faust, who died of cancer. Rogers raised $6,000 for the Hoag Hospital Foundation his first year. This year he's amassed $80,000 toward his goal of $100,000.
Anyone wanting to contribute can send a check to the Hoag Hospital Foundation, "Paddle for the Cure," P.O. Box 6100, Newport Beach, CA 92658-6100.
"Mike's enthusiasm for the cause is very infectious," said Hoag spokeswoman Maria Ramsay. "I think a lot of us sit back and think, 'I'd like to make a difference,' and Mike's actually out there doing it."
During the grueling marathon, Rogers is shadowed by a boat carrying friends and family, who hand him drinks and other supplies, and shout encouragement.
"When I want to give up about 10 million times, I just think about people who have cancer and say, 'You know, Mike, you're doing it for them,' " Rogers said. "I'm not Jerry Lewis. I can't tell jokes. I'm a surfer and I know how to paddle."