OCEAN CITY — Resort area residents have a history of rallying for a good cause, but perhaps one of the greatest examples of coming through for one of their own will be on display next month when a long-time resident and his partner in Hawaii will tackle one of the most treacherous stretches of open ocean in the world for the benefit of a popular local man stricken with a rare disease.
West Ocean City resident Sandy Deeley and long-time friend and fellow ocean enthusiast Teene Froiseth will compete on July 29 in the famous Molokai 2 Oahu World Championship paddleboard race across the Ka’iwi Channel, known for dangerous currents, high winds, big waves and an occasional shark or two. Literally translated as the “Channel of Bones” by those who have tested it and failed, the Ka’iwi channel stretches roughly 26 miles between Molokai and Oahu.
Hundreds will brave the channel on July 29 in the annual race, including Deeley and Froiseth, who are taking on the challenge on behalf of their long-time friend and fellow ocean sports enthusiast Steve Falck, a local man with deep roots in the resort community stricken three years ago with Multiple Systems Atrophy (MSA), a rare neurological disease for which there is no known cure or treatment.
Falck is a local builder, artist, surfer and girls’ lacrosse coach, among many other attributes. As if life hadn’t already dealt him a tough hand, Falck was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer and is undergoing radiation treatments for that disease on top of what he is already going through with MSA.
Despite the debilitating disease which has curtailed some of his favorite activities, Falck’s spirit is strong and he remains active in the community and continues to fight the good fight. Always fiercely independent with a reputation for being the go-to guy when his friends are in need, Falck now needs a leg up in his battle with a rare disease along with prostate cancer as he continues to fight and the medical bills pile up. To that end, Deeley and Froiseth are tackling the Molokai 2 Oahu world championship paddleboard race on his behalf, with the intent of raising at least $32,000, or $1,000 for each of race’s 32 miles across the dangerous channel.
For Deeley, who has been training almost constantly for the race through all sorts of conditions, it’s a labor of love. Deeley and Falck have been friends for over 40 years and have surfed, paddle-boarded, skied and sailed all over the world, so there is a natural nexus between the dangerous race across the channel and the battle Falck faces every day, but the former pales in comparison to the latter for Deeley.
“What we’re doing with the paddleboard race is not significant,” he said. “It’s nothing compared to what Steve battles every day.”
Despite his struggle, Falck continues to do the things he always does in the community. He was often seen throughout the spring on the lacrosse fields at Worcester Prep, where he continues to coach the girls’ junior varsity team. He also continues to enjoy his life-long passion for the ocean with a modified surfboard designed and shaped by a close friend.
“His body is challenged, but his spirit has remained strong,” said Deeley. “He fights the fight and he supports his family with his strength and love. Throughout all of this, he’s still Steve. His spirits are high and he is ready to fight whatever this battle ahead brings.”
While Falck continues his personal battle, Deeley and Froiseth are preparing for one of their own on his behalf. Deeley has been a competitive paddleboard racer for years and has competed in major events up and down the coast, but the Molokai 2 Oahu race next month presents new challenges. Called by many the “Mount Everest” of paddleboard races, the event features conditions not often dealt with in other open ocean events.
“What makes this race so unique is, first of all the distance, but also the currents and wind conditions,” he said. “It’s a downwind race with three- to four-foot swells behind you, but there are also 11-foot wind chops coming at you from the side and 30 mph winds blowing over your other shoulder. It’s going to be challenging, but it’s nothing compared to the challenges Steve is facing.”
Another challenge will be meeting the ambitious fundraising goal, but Deeley is confident it will be reached. One day after their website, www.wepaddleforsteve.com, was activated, it already had over 700 hits and the donations had reached $4,500 and growing by mid-week. The website is user-friendly for donations large and small and also includes information on making larger donations.