Debra Akin ~ June 2014

Posted at 8:29 am on 06/30/2014
​Debra Akin

1) Where are you from?  Your profession?  I was born and raised in south Florida, but have lived in the Gainesville area on and off since 1973.  I'm a researcher at UF's Medical School studying cancer cell biology and drug discovery.

2) When and how did you become interested in paddling?  I started paddling as a teenager in North Carolina when I was visiting my brother, a raft guide, for the summer.  He gave me a purple Dancer so beat up it was lavender, a PFD and a helmet, five minutes worth of instruction, and let me go.  At the end of the run, I would pull my boat out of the river, hitch a ride with a raft bus back to the top and start over, every day, all summer long.  My mother would have killed him if she knew.

3) Where is your favorite place to paddle?  North Florida's Ichetucknee, Silver, and Santa Fe Rivers in the winter and Boundary Waters, MN in the summer.

4) What's the most interesting thing that ever happened to you on a paddling trip?  I guide inner city Chicago youth on 9-day canoe trips in the Boundary Waters each summer.  They pick up paddling really fast.  The most interesting and amazing even I've seen on a trip--and I'm lucky because I get to see it happen each time--is the enjoyment and empowerment they get by becoming proficient at a new activity.

5) Tell us about the beautiful wood kayaks you build.  I come from a long line of shipwrights--my father built wood cabin cruisers and open fishermen as a hobby when I was little.  We built my first kayak together, a CLC Shearwater 17, and I've been building ever since.  Right now I'm refinishing a strip-built canoe, putting a graphite/epoxy resin coating on a Chesapeake 18 hull, finishing a Duckling, and starting on a Night Heron stripper kayak.

6) You're involved in the Florida Paddling Trails Association.  What is your role and what should paddlers know about FPTA?  I'm the Membership Coordinator and director of Region N.  I coordinate activities in Marion County and the Ocklawaha River basin. FPTA originally began as a support organization and steward for the Circumnavigational Trail.  Its mission has expanded to include developing water trails, protecting the environment, and being a resource for paddlers.  I strongly encourage paddlers to join FPTA.  The more voices we have, the stronger our organization.

7) How many Paddle Florida trips have you gone on and to where?  Two and a half so far: two Suwannee River Paddling Festivals and part of the fall Suwannee River Wilderness Trail trip.

8) What keeps you coming back?  The paddling, the camaraderie, and the food.  I love sitting at different tables during meals and meeting new people who also love paddling.

9) Can you describe a Paddle Florida trip highlight?  On the Withlacoochee North, I paddled up a tiny clogged stream to a beautiful spring.  So peaceful--I had it all to myself.

10) What advice do you have for folks considering a Paddle Florida trip?  Bring a sense of adventure and try something new--most trips are amenable to new paddlers.

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