Paddle Florida
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Paddling and protecting Florida's waterways.

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Paddle Florida . . . and go with the flow.
Paddle Florida, Inc. is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation organized to support canoeing and kayaking in Florida. Events in each of Florida's five water management districts expose paddlers to Florida's natural beauty and rich cultural heritage while promoting water conservation, wildlife preservation, springs restoration and waterways protection. Paddle Florida also seeks to promote Florida as an international destination for nature-based tourism. Trips feature Florida's most scenic rivers, canoe trails and coastal environments, including the Florida Keys and the Suwannee, Wekiva, St. Johns, Ochlockonee, Peace, Withlacoochee and Rainbow Rivers.


Paddle Florida staff members scout trips in advance to ensure waterway conditions and shoreline camping sites maximize comfort and showcase nature's best view. Meal plans and gear shuttling eliminate the need to weigh boats down with food and camping equipment. Florida-based entertainment or educational programming is provided each evening by artists, musicians and naturalists local to the region. Partnerships with local outfitters provide paddlers with canoes, kayaks and other gear to rent as needed. With this level of support, paddlers of all ages and skill levels can see and experience the REAL Florida.

Archived Happy Paddler Newsletters:

Contacts:
Paddle Florida, Inc. a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation
P.O. Box 5953, Gainesville, FL 32627
1710 SW 35th Place, Unit C
Gainesville, FL 32608

Board of Directors:
Nickie Kortus, President
Jill Lingard, Vice President
Robert Hutchinson, Secretary
Sharon (Ruby) Bienert, Treasurer
Debra Akin, Board Member
Lars Andersen, Board Member

Tax Return and 990 Documents

Refund Policy
Due to the financial outlay and costs incurred by Paddle Florida during event planning, any force majeure, which includes but is not limited to water levels, inclement weather and any other Acts of God not mentioned herein, shall not result in the refund of any fees paid to Paddle Florida. Absolutely no fees will be refunded after 15 days before the event begins. Any fees refunded by Paddle Florida will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Al Ogden ~ November 2014

(10/31/2014) Where are you from?  Your profession?   I spent most of my young life traveling between my many brothers and sisters homes with my mother. Hot Springs, South Dakota is where I spent high school.  I joined the Army and continued moving around. I have lived in Gainesville since 1982. I am a staff engineer with the Nano-Scale Research Facility at the University of Florida. When and how did you become interested in paddling?  About five years ago, I got into a try “something different mood” and kayaking met so many other needs as well, as a photography and fishing platform. Where is your favorite place to paddle?   Lakes or rivers with wildlife and good fishing. I suppose that my favorite is the Ocklawaha River between the Silver River and Eureka.   What’s the most interesting thing that ever happened to you on a paddling trip?  That’s tough, since it’s always interesting.  But if I had to choose one, it would be finding out that my boat floats and maneuvers even when completely filled with water.   How many Paddle Florida trips have you gone on and to where?  Six with Paddle Florida, but hundreds of day trips on the lakes, rivers, and inland waterways of Florida and South Georgia. What keeps you coming back?   It is good exercise for the mind, body, and soul. I can think of no better way chill the stresses of life.   Can you describe a particular Paddle Florida trip highlight?   I have never met a more wonderful group of people than I meet on these trips. They are from all over and many walks of life and I can honestly say that there has not been a one that I have not liked.  Even the weird ones.  ;)   What advice do you have for folks considering a Paddle Florida trip?  Don’t be intimidated.  The support is the best and there is always someone who will help if needed. If you have bitten off more than you can chew, then take a break and assist the support crew for a day and then jump back into the fray. These are not just paddling trips.  They are an adventure in discovery, limits and potential, friendship and camaraderie, nature and the human condition. On these trips you will meet friends that will become lifelong and there is nothing better than that.

Scott & Erin Smith ~ October 2014

(09/30/2014) Wh      Where are you from?  Your professions? Erin and I currently reside in Palatka. She works as a construction law attorney in St. Augustine and handles cases throughout Florida. I run my own business as a professional photographer and serve a variety of clients such as magazines, advertising agencies, and designers regionally as well as internationally. When and how did you become interested in paddling? I grew up on a sailboat, so I have been on the water since I can remember. I have always enjoyed the freedoms that exploring on my own craft offered. When I was about 15, I was invited to race kayaks in the St. Augustine Maritime Festival.  While I had rowed many a rowboat, I had never kayaked.  I grabbed a loaner kayak and raced; I was hooked!  A few years later I convinced a friend that we should build our own wood kayaks. Erin grew up in Fort Pierce and enjoyed paddling canoes and exploring the various spoil islands along the Intercostal Waterway with friends as a teenager. When I met Erin our mutual love of water and exploring combined and we started enjoying adventures, kayaking together as much as we could.  For Christmas in 2012, I found a 17-foot touring kayak on Craigslist that needed a lot of TLC.  Once Erin had her own kayak, we started spending every weekend exploring the waterways of Florida. Where is your favorite place to paddle? Erin and I both absolutely adore the crystal clear waters of the many amazing freshwater springs that Florida offers. I can't say I have a favorite spring because they are all so special and unique. I love that we as Floridians have such magical places! I should also mention that we talk about our kayak expedition in the Discovery Islands of British Columbia all the time. Taking a week and kayaking in pristine nature was a life altering experience! What’s the most interesting thing that ever happened to you on a paddling trip? I'd have to say getting married to the love of my life and my best friend Erin while in our kayaks!  Tell us more about this unique, paddling-themed wedding. When Erin and I first visited Crystal River and experienced the magic of swimming with the manatees in Three Sisters Springs, we knew it was a very special place…so special in fact that a few months later we nixed our backyard wedding plans and decided to get married in our kayaks amongst the manatees! Three Sisters Springs are only accessible by kayak, canoe, or swimming because of the narrow channel and forested surroundings. The water is as clear as any pool; with a sandy white bottom, the water almost seems to glow. In the winter the entire place fills with manatees seeking the 72-degree spring water. At first light of dawn on December 22, 2013, our guests were swimming in the water with the manatees while Erin and I exchanged vows "high and dry" in our kayaks.  It was truly special to see Erin looking beautiful as ever in her wedding dress paddling toward me in the homemade kayak my friend and I built together.  After our exchange of vows, we paddled to The Plantation on Crystal River for a wonderful brunch and quality time with our friends on dry land.  It was perfect!What’s the most interesting thing that ever happened to you on a paddling trip? I'd have to say getting married to the love of my life and my best friend Erin while in our kayaks!Tell us about the adventures of Elvis the Paddling Wonder Dog. Elvis is a Pembroke Welsh Corgi... a little dog with a big attitude!  Elvis is more of a navigator than a paddler.  He loves sitting in the back hatch of Erin's kayak and taking a nap or enjoying the passing sights. He is amazingly calm in the boat and really gets excited when he sees us pulling out the boats and paddles. In May we rescued another Pembroke Welsh Corgi from a no-kill shelter in St. Augustine, a senior (12) female named Snuggles. Snuggles has also taken to the kayak, but she prefers to stay in Erin's lap or hang out in the cockpit between Erin's legs.  Maybe corgis are natural kayakers? How many Paddle Florida trips have you gone on and to where?We came to The Suwannee River Paddling Festival unsure of what to expect from a Paddle Florida trip, but we had a blast and made some great friends.  While at this point that is the only "official" trip we have done, we have joined some of the fantastic folks we met at the paddle festival for adventures in a variety of areas.  We are really excited to do the Florida Keys Challenge this coming January!Can you describe a particular trip highlight? One the best things about Paddle Florida are the people you meet while on the trips.  One of our biggest highlights was meeting Dr. Bob Knight and learning about the Florida Springs Institute and the incredible work that they are doing to protect the Floridan aquifer. What advice do you have for folks considering a Paddle Florida trip? I find myself telling folks all the time how great the experience of joining a Paddle Florida trip was. It’s worthwhile not only because of the trip, but because of the amazing people you will meet and share adventures with. I love that on just one trip we met a whole network of interesting, passionate paddlers that are "doers.”  So I say don't hesitate…go!

George Wilson ~ September 2014

(08/30/2014) 1)    Where are you from?  Your profession?   I grew up on Cape Cod, MA, but my wife, Renee, and I have lived on Marco Island for the last 30 years.  We retired to Gainesville a few years ago.  Renee is from Keystone Heights; we met at UF in 1969 and were married in the courthouse after graduation in 1971. Lots of great memories. I am a third generation carpenter by trade, general contractor by profession. 2)     When and how did you become interested in paddling?  My hometown was a maze of creeks, rivers, tidal rivers, cranberry bogs, mill ponds, bays, and beaches. I could walk out of my house and be on the water in a few minutes, or ride a bike to a beach in less than five. I've spent most of my life on the water--swimming, canning, surfing, snorkeling, sailing--but never really liked motor craft.  With our friends on Marco--Bill and Jo Hammond, Paul and Jory Westberry, Scott and Beth Keyes--Renee and I found that kayaks were probably the most fun way to be on the water in the Marco Island area. 3)     Where is your favorite place to paddle?  It's hard to name a favorite. I really liked the first two days on [Paddle Florida’s] Wekiva trip.  But we have a short paddle on Marco that leaves at sunset on the night of a full moon. We can ride an outgoing tide about thirty minutes to an island just north, land on the beach, watch the sun set into the gulf, start a fire, drink for about four hours, watch the moon rise, and then ride the incoming tide back to the launch site at around midnight under the full moon. It's pretty hard to beat that trip. 4)     What’s the most interesting thing that ever happened to you on a paddling trip?  It was on a rafting trip on the Little Salmon River in Idaho. There were 12 people in two rafts. The guide in our raft had oars; Renee and I had paddles. While going through some rather steep rapids, the raft in front of us went straight up, out of the water, and threw everyone on board into the rapids.  The ensuing scenario was pretty exciting. 5)     How many Paddle Florida trips have you gone on and to where?  I’ve gone on the Peace River twice, the Keys trip, the Wekiva, and the Ochlockonee. 6)     What keeps you coming back?  I would have to say [director] Bill Richards. As you must know, it is rare to find such an inspirational leader. A true Renaissance man. A curmudgeon of the first order. 7)     Can you describe a particular trip ‘highlight’?  The first day of the Wekiva trip, when we were able to paddle up at the narrow but very clear stream flowing from the spring, was one of my favorite moments.  Paddling in any area that seems unspoiled, like the mangrove waterways around Marco or near a crystal clear spring, always makes me reflect on what the first explorers must have felt on seeing such natural wonders. 8)     What advice do you have for folks considering a Paddle Florida trip?  Make sure your tent is watertight, that your gear works, and that you are visible from outer space. Any time you go out on the water, it can be a survival experience.    

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