Paul Westberry ~ April 2012

Posted at 1:27 am on 06/30/2014
​Paul Westberry

1) Where are you from?  I am a native Floridian who has lived all over the state, with the most years (17) spent in Gainesville. I began teaching at Terwilliger Elementary in 1968. After earning my Master's degree, I moved to Wyoming for 17 years with 10 spent as principal. I later returned to Florida and retired in Naples after a 37-year career. Armed with Master Naturalist and American Canoe Association certifications, I have been immersed in environmental volunteerism and "work" as a kayak tour guide in the mangrove estuaries of Southwest Florida.

2) When and how did you become interested in paddling?  About 30 years ago, I took my first trip in an OLD vinyl-clad, wood-framed Folbot in a three-day drift down the Green River in Wyoming. That clinched it for me. Backpacking in the Wind River Range and camping/paddling the waters of the West became great sources of joy for me. After I returned to Florida, I bought a couple of used kayaks and began learning the coastal waters of South Florida.

3) Where is your favorite place to paddle?  I love the backwater mangrove areas. The mix of water and bottom structure make it " a box of chocolates. You never know..." Even though I take tourists out daily and sometimes twice daily during our season, I can always anticipate something unique each time. I am blessed to be able to continue teaching.

4) How many Paddle Florida trips have you gone on and to where?  A bunch! I met Jan Corcoran and Bill Richards on a Suwannee trip from the Okefenokee Swamp to the Spirit of the Suwannee sometime before they started Paddle Florida. I've probably made 9 or 10 trips, and several years ago I was inducted into the exclusive "Squat Team" for having completed four trips on the Suwannee. I would have to dig out all my tee shirts for an accurate count of Suwannee and Peace trips. I really enjoyed the recent Ochlockonee trip. It may become my favorite.

5) What keeps you coming back?  Any day spent on the water has great potential for possibilities. The natural beauty of earth, sky, water, and friendships make an alluring mix.

6) Can you describe a particular trip 'highlight?'  About six years ago, a very large sturgeon surfaced right next to my boat and lingered long enough for me into gaze into its expressionless dark eyes set off by warts, nodules, and undulations of fins and flesh that were astoundingly dinosaur ancient in appearance.

7) What advice do you have for folks considering a Paddle Florida trip?  If you haven't come yet, add it to your bucket list. Buy, rent, borrow an appropriate boat. That little 10-footer you putz around in on the lake is not a good idea. Make sure you can paddle the mileage required.

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