George Wilson ~ September 2014

Posted at 8:09 pm on 08/30/2014

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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