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Up the river, with a paddle

Even when the winds are favorable, the time-honored sport of standup paddleboarding can still be a rough pastime for an athlete. It can also be silly, which may be why at least four of the 48 expected standup paddleboarders competing at Sunday's Battle for the Paddle on Fort Lauderdale's New River have taken the added precaution of wearing thick, glorious mustaches.

The team is called Tom Selleck, and its members are determined to win.

"It's not the most-serious race," says organizer Ashley Clarkin, whose event is a collaboration with Riverwalk Trust. "New River is flat water. It's for folks who've just started giving serious thought to paddleboarding as a hobby."

The 16 teams perched on their paddleboards Sunday will have already registered and trained with Clarkin's standup paddleboarding academy earlier this week, she says. All the strength and endurance of rounding buoys with finesse comes into play when teams churn the waters head-to-head, each competing in 200-yard elimination-relay heats until the top eight teams advance to the finals. First place wins $500, second wins $300 and third gets $200, although each competitor receives at least $100 for their charity of choice. (Nonprofits include Tomorrow's Rainbow, Emerge Broward, Surfers for Autism and HANDY.)

"We wanted to get some fresh blood in the Fort Lauderdale community," Clarkin says. "You could ride your bike around the beach for fun, but this is more extreme and has a lot of built-in camaraderie and sportsmanship."

The Battle for the Paddle will take place 9 a.m.–noon Sunday at Esplanade Park, 400 SW Second St., in Fort Lauderdale. Admission is free.

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