Ray Steed ~ May 2016
(04/28/2016) Where are you from? Your profession? I am originally from Houston, Texas, and after a series of moves around the United States, we settled in the Atlanta, Georgia area where we have lived for the past 25 years. I retired from The Coca-Cola Company in 2014 after a 33-year career in technical - I am a microbiologist by education. My last role was VP, QSE (Quality, Occupational Health & Safety, and Environmental Sustainability) for Coca-Cola North America. When and how did you become interested in paddling? Growing up on the Texas coast, I spent my spare time in and on the water. I started paddling canoes on the rivers and bayous around Houston. I actually purchased my first kayak for my oldest son when it became obvious that my family had outgrown our canoe during a paddling trip in Georgia's Okefenokee Swamp. That was the beginning of many more kayaks and family kayak paddling trips. Where is your favorite place to paddle? Most of my kayak paddling is on the Chattahoochee River, which is just outside my back door. However, my favorite paddling is in tidal creeks and saltwater bays. What’s the most interesting thing that ever happened to you on a paddling trip? I was able to watch a group of young boys mature and really pull together on a 7-day self-supported wilderness canoe trip in Quetico Provincial Park when I was an adult Scout leader. How many Paddle Florida trips have you gone on and to where? I have been on four Paddle Florida trips— the Wekiva/St. John's River Ramble, the Wild Wonderful Withlacoochee, the Bartram History Paddle on the St. Johns River, and the Dam to the Bay trip on the Panhandle’s Ochlockonee River. What keeps you coming back? Beyond the opportunity to experience new rivers, I enjoy the friends I have made on these trips and the chance to see them again, the evening entertainment, and all of the support provided by the staff and volunteers. Can you describe a Paddle Florida trip highlight? My first Paddle Florida trip introduced me to Florida springs. I had never seen such clear and beautiful water. I paddled close to the lead boat and was shocked when the wildlife simply ignored our presence. This trip was even more rewarding as Doug Alderson named all of the plants and birds as we paddled downriver. What advice do you have for folks considering a Paddle Florida trip? I would recommend registering early. I recently missed a trip because it had completely filled before I submitted my registration. These are great experiences and I hope to go on many more.