Coast Life

Pain with a purpose: Young paddlers cross the bay to raise money for cystic fibrosis

Saturday’s fundraiser included the youngest team of paddlers to ever cross Monterey Bay. Aptos’ Jack Snyder, 14, and Capitola’s Ryder Walding, 13, trained for months to complete the paddle from Santa Cruz to Monterey.

Paddlers have journeyed across Monterey Bay’s 28 miles for the past five years to raise money for people living with cystic fibrosis. But this year, the annual fundraiser — called the Bay for Breath Crossing — reached a new milestone.

Saturday’s fundraiser included the youngest team of paddlers ever to cross the bay. From Aptos and Capitola, respectively, young surfers Jack Snyder, 14, and Ryder Walding, 13, trained for months to complete the paddle from Santa Cruz to Monterey.

Ryder Walding and Jack Snyder.
(Via Vinson Smith)

“It’s really not an easy endeavor for anybody, much less kids this age,” said Ryder Walding’s father, Jacob Walding, who had completed the paddle years before.

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The kids — accompanied by their dads — left the Santa Cruz harbor at 6:30 a.m. and were followed by 15 other paddlers throughout the day. Like most of the paddlers, the Snyders and Waldings crossed the bay while lying or kneeling on prone paddleboards, using their arms to push through the water.

Ryder Walding said the worst part of the paddle was when they could see Monterey, but it didn’t look like it was getting any closer.

“You were just paddling in what seemed like an endless amount of water,” he said in a video created by 13-year-old Vinson Smith.

Jack Snyder is all smiles as he hits land in Monterey 10 hours later.
(Via Vinson Smith)

Snyder said he thought the paddle would be a lot more eerie, being out on open water, but, in his words, the almost 10-hour trip was “not bad.”

But Jacob Walding emphasized that the paddle is no simple task: “It was really a pretty amazing feat to watch the two boys go through.”

Both Walding and Snyder raised over $3,000 each, with the 19 paddlers raising nearly $56,000 altogether. All proceeds go to the Living Breath Foundation in honor of Melissa Pappageorgas, a Central Coast surfer who died from cystic fibrosis — a disorder that damages the lungs and other organs — in 2018.

“Most people don’t have to wake up and think about that first breath of air,” Jacob Walding said. “I’ve always talked to my kids about kind of giving back — if you’re blessed with good health and a good physique, you kind of have a duty to give back to your community.”