Paddle Round The Pier beach festival returns this Sat 2 – Sun 3 July to celebrate its 20th anniversary! In 1996 a small group of surfers, led by founder David Samuel, decided to bring together the surfing community in a social seafront event which would raise money for charity at the same time. From the 50 people who attended the first Paddle Round The Pier, the event has evolved in to what is now regarded as the world’s largest free charity beach festival, with average visitor numbers of 50,000+ people offering something for everyone that loves the beach lifestyle.

The ethos of the event has remained the same since its inception – ‘spread a little aloha-spirit’ and have a good time doing it. Given the enormous success of the event, it would appear to be working! ‘Paddle’ as it affectionately known amongst the locals, features a weekend of water sports and entertainment centred around the Paddle Village on Hove Lawns. Although there is no official charge to enter the Paddle Village, Samuel is quick to remind us that “it’s all in aid of charity so everyone is expected to donate a couple of pounds on the entrance gates – every penny raised on the gates goes to charity.”

Within the Paddle Village are over 200 exhibitors and retail stands featuring beach lifestyle and water sports brands. There are four main entertainment stages for 2016, the Main Stage featuring the very best of Brighton’s musicians, the Ocean Flooring kids stage with a mixture of professional children entertainers and groups performing, The ever popular Ukulele stage showcasing the accessibility of the great little instrument and the Street Funk Dance-off Arena – offering a platform for Paddle’s new southeast street dance competition.

Add into the mix bars and over 12 alfresco restaurants offering the very best food and drink, there is no reason to leave the Paddle Village all weekend! The food units offer a complete mix of dietary needs, including gluten free.

There’s a great mix of paddle sports to either watch, compete in or have a go at with the new paddle demonstration pool on Hove Lawns – #dontforgetyourtrunks. The essence of the event remains the same as when it first began – raise some money for charity but have a good time doing it. Despite its enormous size, the event is still run by a passionate group of volunteers known as the Paddle Crew (who are always looking for new members!).

“Brightonians are spoilt for choice when it comes to events in the city – but they know a good one when they see one,” says Samuel. “Paddle is everyone’s event, it doesn’t belong to me or any other individual – it’s collectively owned by the people and the city, and the Paddle Crew are merely the custodians.”

Local affection for the event is demonstrated by the hundreds of vehicles across the city proudly displaying a Paddle sticker. 10,000 stickers are produced every year and they soon go. 2016 stickers can be collected from any local surf or Small Batch Coffee shop but hurry, as most are already gone!

‘For the betterment of others’ is Samuel’s personal mantra, which is why he proudly promotes the outreach work Paddle funds each year along with partners such as Brighton & Hove Bus company who support the Access Beach giving disabled kids and their families the chance to enjoy the beach and sea. Then there is the Schools Surf Life Saving Program sponsored by Jeep, which puts 30 kids per day through their paces as lifeguards for the whole month of June. Sharing that ‘aloha spirit’ once again! “We have a huge playground out there in the sea but it’s important that we teach everyone to respect that environment and play safe. Salt water is a great cleanser for both the physical and mental being and nothing quite beats messing about in, on or under the water.”

The event has raised over £250,000 for charity in recent years and in this, their 20th anniversary year, the charities are The RNLI, Amaze and Surfers Against Sewage. Despite the success of the event all the Paddle Crew agree, “in order to keep doing good things, the event desperately needs everyone to donate as they come in. It’s a free event, which we are all very proud of, however, we had approximately 50,000 people attend again in 2015, we only collected 18k on the gates. We want to keep the event as free as possible but it’s up to the people of the city to make it happen and for everyone to play their part – imagine how much we would raise if everyone gave £2 each!“

www.paddleroundthepier.com

*Header image by Split the Kipper. Used under a Creative Commons license.