The Harbor Report: Costumed cancer fighters take to their paddleboards

When I think of big events in our harbor, I recall the Flight of the Snowbirds, Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race, the Ancient Mariners Hobie Cat regatta and now Paddle for Privates.

If I was going to use one word to describe this event, it would be "genius." That word also holds true for founder Mandy McDonnell.

I had a chance to talk with her over the phone this week and go over Saturday's Paddle for Privates costume paddle and learn a little more about this amazing person.

Mandy grew up here in Newport Beach and went through the junior program at Lido Isle Yacht Club. She then sailed for Newport Harbor High School and Boston College. After college she was burnt out on competitive sailboat racing, but still wanted to return to the harbor. With a quick glance onto the water, she noticed stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP.

Realizing the sport needed a club, she formed SUP Dog, which can be found at

The club paddles from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursdays in the summer, with an old fashioned beach party or gathering at a partner bar afterward. The group revolves around the idea that people need instruction and the opportunity to engage in SUP before making the investment in a board. To further this, Mandy went out and found board manufactures and rental companies to provide demonstration boards.

As the club grew, she felt she needed a cause or another avenue to bring more awareness to SUP.

It all came together when her father was diagnosed with prostate cancer during breast cancer awareness month. November is prostate cancer awareness month. Oh, and don't worry, her dad has recovered.

"I want to bring awareness to all parts of cancer," Mandy said.

The Paddle for Privates costume paddle was born in 2010 with close to 100 people registered. This year, Mandy feels that there could be as many as 200 costume paddlers on the water. This year's event will benefit Athletes for Cancer.

As long as it's human-powered you can enter. Just go to and ask if they still have any boards you can borrow.

The Fritz Duda Co. has played a major role in the success of the event, along with Suplove Boards, which donates a new board for the person who gathers the most donations.

The location this year is in Newport Dunes and is best accessed via Bayside Drive. Management must be saving up for their tidelands permits because they are charging $10 for parking that day. Which I feel is wrong, but what are you going to do?

Whether you choose to don a Stetson and sheriff's badge, a labcoat or a pair of fangs, make sure you give a big shout out to Mandy McDonnell. She is doing more for the future of our harbor than anyone can possibly imagine.

Sometimes you just have to say, "I feel like dressing up and making people more aware of how to prevent cancer."

Sea ya.

LEN BOSE is an experienced boater, yacht broker and boating columnist.

If You Go

What: Paddle for Privates

Where: Newport Dunes, 101 N. Bayside Drive, Newport Beach

When: 9 to 5 p.m. Saturday

Cost: $45 online registration, $55 day of; parking: $10


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