Memorial Day 2018

Paddleboard Racer Stands Up for a Cause

By John Tracy Jr.

Andy Giordano with his paddle and board.

The Giordano family is no stranger to the pages of the Sea Isle Times. Two years ago, we featured Joseph Giordano for winning 17 gold medals in swimming at the Senior Olympic Games in Florida. Now, his son Andy is planning to continue the family tradition of vigorous aquatic competition by participating in stand-up paddleboard races from here to New York.


Like his father, Andy has maintained his fitness through his middle years, and at the age of 54 is going harder than ever. Training for and competing in these events is in itself both physically and mentally rewarding, but there is also a charitable aspect of the races that he holds close to his heart.


Giordano has spent his entire life in Sea Isle City. Raised by the beach, it was only natural that he was drawn to the water, and became a surfer. But it wasn’t until about 9 years ago that he discovered the joys of stand-up paddleboarding (SUP).


“I started out paddling so that I could surf waves in the ocean, but it eventually morphed into racing,” Giordano says.


SUP surfing and racing requires different shaped boards, and after his first race, he realized he needed to upgrade to a displacement hull design. Today he rides an SIC X14, which is an elite brand and model, measuring 14 feet in length. This kind of equipment comes in handy to maintain speed and balance even in rough or choppy conditions.


The real story begins 22 years ago, when his 18-month old son, Andrew, was diagnosed with a rare form of pediatric cancer. He and his wife had to stop working to take care of Andrew, and the emotional and financial stress it put on the family was devastating.


Andy's gear, SIC X 14 Pro & Quick Blade QB Trifecta 86 paddle.


“Lydia Borek really came to the rescue,” Giordano says. “She helped us to cover many of our bills through the Brendan Borek Fund, and it made all the difference. We feel blessed that our son made it through and is still with us today.”


In fact, his son graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach in May. He lost part of his right foot due to the cancer, and wearing a prosthetic on his leg made riding a traditional surfboard difficult. But after a trip to Hawaii and seeing the guys there ripping on the SUPs, his family realized it might be the perfect way for him to ride waves without having to drag his leg during the standing motion.


“He’s probably better on the SUP than me now,” laughs Giordano, a proud father.


Giordano’s personal goal is to complete and podium in the masters division (50 and older) in six distance paddleboard races on the East Coast this year. Perhaps the most meaningful event for him is the Dean Randazzo race – 22 miles around Absecon Island (Atlantic City) on June 9. Randazzo was a professional surfer from Ocean City who beat cancer and now organizes several surf-related events to raise money for cancer.


“I think it is important for people to know how brutal cancer can be,” Giordano says, “and this race does that. We usually raise over $100,000 every year to help fight cancer, and there’s always a friendly rivalry between competitors to see who can raise the most.”


What started as a race among friends who wanted to make a difference now has more than 100 competitors.


Some of the trophies Andy has been awarded over the years.


Next up, on July 1, is the Cape2Cape Race, which mimics the 18-mile ferry route from Lewes, Del., to Cape May. Organized by Chad DeSatnick, a local surfer and spinal-injury survivor, proceeds benefit the foundation started in his name to help families of people with spinal injuries and paralyses. DeSatnick also has gotten Giordano involved in the Life Rolls On event in Wildwood each year, where 500-plus volunteer watermen enter the ocean to make the dream of surfing a reality for paraplegics. “For those people, it is the most incredible day of the year,” says Giordano.


There also are two smaller races in July: the Strathmere MS Foundation 5-mile back-bay race on July 19 and the Harbor Outfitters 9-mile open-ocean race on July 24. Then appropriately, at the end of the summer in New York City is the SEA (Surfers’ Environmental Alliance) Paddle for Autism, possibly the Super Bowl of SUP races on the East Coast, and an event for which Giordano has been training hard to win.


Inspired by the book, “How to Increase Your Stand Up Paddling Performance, Beginner to Elite,” by Suzie Cooney, Giordano’s exercise regime starts every day at 4:15am with circuit training, and now that the ice has melted, about three times a week out on the water in the afternoon working on a variety of paddling and conditioning techniques. Giordano met Cooney at a race in Oahu in 2011, but it wasn’t until 2015 that his wife and daughter got him a copy of “The SUP Bible” (as he refers to it because if you follow her advice you get results) and he started to passionately get into racing. Giordano now communicates with Cooney on a regular basis and she is helping him in his training.


“I’d rather wear out from living than wither away from doing nothing,” is Giordano’s outlook on life. And at 54, he is definitely not slowing down. He jokes, “I like to say I’m 29 with 25 years of experience.”


He is already looking forward to the next big adventures – taking his family to Maui, completing a Maliko Run and training with Cooney. Giordano also is writing a book and experimenting with hydrofoil surfing.


The stoke is strong in Andy Giordano, and we hope to see him bring home some gold medals just like his dad did.

Copyright 2018 Seven Mile Publishing.  All rights reserved.