Paddling and protecting Florida's waterways.

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Paddle Florida Paddling and Protecting Florida's Waterways Paddle Florida, ,

, Paddle Florida Paddling and Protecting Florida's Waterways

, Paddle Florida Paddling and Protecting Florida's Waterways

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  • October 24-29, 2014: Suwannee River Wilderness Trail
  • December 5-8, 2014: Wekiva/St. Johns River Ramble
  • January 15-22, 2015: Florida Keys Challenge 

Tentative Dates for 2015-16 season
  • 8th annual Fall Paddle Florida on the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail - October 22-27, 2015
  • St. Johns River event - December 4-8, 2015
  • 6th annual Florida Keys Challenge - January 15-22, 2016
  • SWFWMD event - February 13-18, 2016
  • 6th annual Dam to the Bay - March 12-18, 2016
  • 4th annual Suwannee River Paddling Festival, April 1-3, 2016

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:

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.

Woody & Kathy Lewis ~ January 2015

(12/31/2014) 1)    Where are you from?  Your profession? We both grew up in North Florida, in the Tallahassee area. Woody worked as an air traffic controller in California after serving in the Air Force in Vietnam, then became a computer specialist at a private firm, and finished his career as an analyst for the State of Florida, retiring last year. Kathy will be retiring from her position as an analyst for state government later this year. We are both certified green guides and enjoying providing kayak tours on the St. Marks River. And we both intend to spend more time kayaking, traveling, and camping in 2015.    2)     When and how did you become interested in paddling? Kathy's younger brother built a Folbot kayak from a kit when they were teenagers in the 60’s. Basically a wood frame covered with waxed canvas with (very hard) wooden seats. She used it in local ponds and lakes and later canoed the Wacissa, Wakulla, and other local rivers with friends while attending FSU. Woody was a member of the Tallahassee Canoe Club in the late 80's.  He became hooked on kayaks because they handled so much easier than canoes and were perfect for navigating local rivers and fishing.   3)    Where is your favorite place to paddle? The St. Marks River in Wakulla County, which feeds into the Gulf of Mexico. It has been a special place for both of us for many years, but especially since we were lucky enough to build our home on its banks 10 years ago.   4)    What’s the most interesting thing that’s ever happened to you on a paddling trip? Our most unusual paddling experience was being confronted by a large "Florida cracker" bull up in the St. Marks River basin, near the spring.  The bull was quietly enjoying the local vegetation, neck deep in the river, when Woody unknowingly got too close. As the bull raised its head up above the hyacinth, the large set of horns and loud snort let him know it was time to head in another direction!  These cattle have been in and around the St. Marks since the late 1800's, and we have observed them in the shallow water many times.  However, this was our first "up too close" experience with one in deeper (4') water. The cattle have since been fenced off from the river.   5)     How many Paddle Florida trips have you gone on and to where? Kathy went on the Ochlockonee River Dam to the Bay trip in 2012 and we both did the recent Wekiva/St. Johns Ramble.   6)     What did you enjoy most about the Paddle Florida experience? Perfect mix of adventure and support.  Interesting people to meet and paddle with, yet you could choose to do your own thing knowing you would still get to socialize later if you wanted to, have some good grub, hear some music around the campfire, or listen to an interesting speaker.   7)     Can you describe a particular Paddle Florida trip highlight? Rock Springs Run was spectacular!  The water and vegetation were beautiful, and the close-up encounters with the limpkins were priceless and made for good photo ops.   8)     What advice do you have for folks considering a Paddle Florida trip? Don't hesitate, just do it! 

Whitney Sanford ~ December 2014

(11/26/2014) Where are you from?  Your profession?  I was born in Savannah, Georgia, and I now live in Gainesville, Florida. I'm faculty in the Religion Department at the University of Florida, in the area of religion and nature. When and how did you become interested in paddling?  I first became interested in paddling when I was a camp counselor in North Carolina, but I didn't really start until I was in Iowa. My friends were into whitewater paddling, and I got hooked. Today, I especially love coastal kayaking because it blends the thrill of whitewater with the fun of multi-day camping trips.   Tell us about your kayak teaching experience.  I helped the outdoor rec program at Iowa State University when I was on the faculty there, and then I taught at Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) during my first (I hope of many) midlife crises. I loved teaching there, but when I moved to Florida, I switched to coastal and sea kayaking. My husband Kevin and I have been training under both ACA and BCU systems for kayak instruction, rescue, and leadership. It's fun to watch people gain confidence on lumpy water.   Kayaks or SUPs…what’s your favorite and why?  Tough question because they offer different things. I love the view from my paddleboard, especially on the springs. Great views of the manatees. I recently bought a SUP just for surf, and I'm having a blast in the waves. Surfing and paddling in my kayak is also wonderful, and Kevin and I have camped out of our boats in the Keys, the Bahamas, and Chile. The kayak offers more possibilities for expeditions, although I'm hoping to do a self-supported camping trip on the SUP this winter. Where is your favorite place to paddle?  Another tough question, but I'd have to say Tybee Island near Savannah, Georgia. We can surf in the Triangle, then go up the back river and see dolphins and rays. There's great camping on Little Tybee as well.   What’s the most interesting thing that ever happened to you on a paddling trip?  A much easier question ... Kevin and I got engaged on Christmas Eve when we were paddling off the coast of Chile. We were in a remote area and had been picking mussels for our dinner. I can't imagine a more romantic time or place.   How many Paddle Florida trips have you gone on and to where?  I've only done the Keys Challenge so far. Kevin and I helped Bill scout this trip, so I've gotten to know the Keys pretty well. [Whitney is also signed up for this December’s Wekiva/St. Johns River Ramble.] What keeps you coming back?  Of course, I enjoy the paddling and the beautiful places, but I really love meeting other paddlers. It's always fun to hear about other peoples' lives and their paddling stories. I have great memories of sitting around the campfire at night, just shooting the breeze.   Can you describe a particular Paddle Florida trip highlight?  One year the Seven Mile Bridge crossing in the Keys had some waves, and some paddlers weren't confident of their skills. I spoke to them about technique. As they did the crossing, I watched them transform from tentative to confident paddlers, even surfing the small waves. That made the teacher in me very happy. Many of the Paddle Florida paddlers are highly skilled, so these trips are a good time to test your limits and try new things. What advice do you have for folks considering a Paddle Florida trip?  Just do it. It's a great way to paddle in different parts of Florida and to meet other paddlers.

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.

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