Doug Alderson

"I am happiest when sharing an outdoor experience with good friends and family," says outdoor writer and photographer Doug Alderson. He is the author of numerous magazine articles and several books, including Waters Less Traveled: Exploring Florida's Big Bend Coast (2005), New Dawn for the Kissimmee River: Orlando to Okeechobee by Kayak (2009), Encounters with Florida's Endangered Wildlife (2010), Wild Florida Waters: Exploring the Sunshine State by Kayak and Canoe ( 2011), The Great Florida Seminole Trail (2013), and Wild Florida Adventures: Exploring the Sunshine State by Land and Water (2014). Alderson also works as assistant bureau chief for the Florida Office of Greenways and Trails, and he writes an outdoor and nature blog for Visit Tallahassee. For more information, log onto www.dougalderson.net

Rachel Austin

Rachel is a Florida native, avid sea kayaker and has been teaching outdoor education for over two decades. Her passion for the outdoors and adventure started as a young girl growing up exploring the Black Forest in Germany and living in a tree house on the Big Island of Hawaii. She started her first kayak tour and expedition company in 1999 and since has led multi day sea kayak expeditions in Gulf Island National Seashore and throughout Florida’s rivers and coastal waterways. Along with co-leading camping, whitewater rafting, hiking, and climbing trips with adults and youth throughout the Southeast.

She has been a consultant for tour companies developing business plans, training guides, and providing certifications courses through the ACA, SOLO, And American Heart Association. Now owner of Florida Outdoor Academy she is dedicated to providing the highest level outdoor certification to Florida residence. Her certification include Urban EMT, Wilderness EMT, AHA BLS Instructor, LMT, ACA L4 Coastal Kayak Coach, & RYT200.

Jane Bales

Jane Bales is a Coast Guard Auxiliarist, an ACA Certified River Kayak, Coastal Kayak, and SUP Instructor, the Organizer of the Greater Albuquerque/Santa Fe Kayak Meet Upand Co-Founder and current President of Kayak New Mexico, Inc. (a non profit organization building courage, confidence, and character, one stroke at a time, through adaptive kayaking programs for children and adults with disabilities, or life-threatening medical conditions).

In 2015, Bales was awarded a Letter of Commendation from the U.S. Coast Guard Commandant for her work as Public Education Instructor for the Coast Guard Auxiliary. Bales' work involved teaching the Coast Guard's Auxiliary Kayak Safety Program.

In 2017, Bales became the Auxiliary Paddle Craft (AUXPAD) coordinator for the District 8 Coastal Region of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary. The AUXPAD program's goal is to educate the public and promote recreational boating safety for paddle craft operators.

In addition to volunteering for the Coast Guard Auxiliary and Kayak New Mexico, Inc., Bales has led more than 150 single and multi-day trips involving more than 1,800 people on rivers and lakes in New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and Utah as an organizer of the Greater Albuquerque/Santa Fe Meet Up.

Brack Barker

Brack Barker has been the owner/guide of Wild Florida Adventure since December of 2002 leading kayak and nature tours in over 10 North Central Florida counties. He also instructs community education classes at Santa Fe College in Gainesville. He was born and raised in Melbourne, Florida and is a U.S. Navy Veteran. His educational background includes an AS degree in Zookeeping from Santa Fe College, and BA degree in Anthropology from the University of Florida, both in Gainesville. Other course work includes the Florida Master Naturalist Program via UF/IFAS, is currently certified L2 coastal kayak instructor via the American Canoe Association, and numerous Leave No Trace training courses. He has also received training as an outings leader with the National Sierra Club and the Florida Trail Association. In addition to kayak and nature tours, Brack volunteers as a Docent Naturalist at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus, since 2002. He conducts nature and museum programs for school groups and interpretive programs and tours of the traveling and permanent exhibits.

Guerry Bradley

Guerry Bradley, whose day job is as a firefighter/EMT in St. Augustine, has been a part of the Paddle Florida family since our first trip in March, 2008. On that first trip, he did everything in his power to save the life of dying beaver on the Suwannee River, but alas, all his efforts were for naught as we lost the poor animal. He is also known as a key player around the campfire each night, as his jokes entertain the rest of the group. We are fortunate to have someone with his myriad skills as a Paddle Florida volunteer.

Beth Courtright

Beth grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Florida after completing a BA in Psychology and an AD in Nursing. She opted to retire at the same time as her husband, so that they could spend time together. A love of the outdoors started when she was a Girl Scout. Always ready for camping, kayaking, & exploring, it was recommended by a kayaking friend that she take a PaddleFlorida trip. Since her first trip on the Ochlocknee river she was hooked. Along with her husband, she volunteers for many worthy environmental organizations, including: Panther Wildlife Refuge, CREW Land and Water Trust, and Florida Paddling Trails Association.

John Courtright

John grew up in Miami. A great place to ignite his love of the water, he spent lots of time surfing the coast. November 2009 he retired from Miami Dade Fire Rescue after serving 30 years as a paramedic/firefighter. Retirement gave John the ability to pursue many outdoor passions. Living on the gulf coast in Naples, kayaking became a must do activity. He can be found paddling with local clubs, camping in the 10,000 islands or exploring northern rivers. In addition to paddling, John has become involved in several environmentally focused organizations: South Florida Panther Wildlife Refuge, CREW Land and Water Trust, and most recently Florida Paddling Trails Association as a trail angel.

Karol Doucette

Karol loves to paddle just about anything, including sea kayaks, surf kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards. She has participated in many Paddle Florida trips and enjoyed it so much she became a volunteer. Karol and her husband Farley are lifelong learners and often take courses together as a "vacation." Karol is a rescue SCUBA diver, an ACA-certified Day Trip Leader, and an ASA-certified sailor. Active in her local community, she volunteers for Marineland's Right Whale Watch program. Growing up in northern Virginia and spending 25 years in New Jersey in a special education career, Florida was always a favorite vacation spot. She is thrilled now to call Florida home and is dedicated to preserving its beauty and natural resources.

Gigi Frye

Gigi Frye is a native North Carolinian living in Charleston, SC who loves the Paddle Florida organization and paddling the beautiful waters of Florida. Her paddling experience includes class I-III whitewater, coastal touring, kayak camping expeditions and stand up paddle boarding. She was certified as an ACA Coastal Kayak Tour Guide and has plans to pursue certification as a coastal kayak instructor. Gigi has been actively dedicated to clean water issues including leading the organization of a 40 person volunteer river sweep in North Carolina, completion of Lakekeeper training with the Catawba Riverkeepers and volunteering with the SC Coastal Conservation League on litter sweeps and issue campaigns. She is a graduate of Montreat College with B.A in Business. After 14 years employed as a software support engineer for a major software company, she changed fields in 2012 and is now a licensed massage therapist with certification in neuromuscular therapy.

Debbie Gelderblom

Debbie was born and raised in Michigan, the "Water Wonderland". She grew up hiking, camping and exploring with her family yet had never been in a kayak until about 5 years ago. Debbie remembers when she first got into a kayak. The plan was to learn as much as she could during the summer in Michigan, with the goal of overnight camping in the Florida Everglades on a chickee that winter. As she paddled past a floating log, she thought, "I'll be eye to eye with the alligators!" Well that first trip to Florida, she never saw any (while paddling) but was eager to explore more of Florida waterways.

With a focus on learning skills and safety, she has attended symposiums in Michigan (Great Lakes Sea Kayak and WMCKA) and Florida (Sweetwater). This year she completed the Foundation, Safety and Rescue Training course provided by the PaddleSports North America (PNA).

She is part of Little Traverse Paddlers, a Meetup paddling group (of age 55+)in Michigan during the summer and her first Paddle Florida trip was the Keys Challenge in 2014, followed by the Withlacoochee in 2015 and was glad to be able to support the Keys Challenge and the Great Calusa Blueway in 2016.

Paul Gelderblom

Paul is from Michigan where he spent most of his time around, in, on and under water. Camping, canoeing, sailing, fishing and scuba diving led to a long stint with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources allowing him to work all around the state. He started out as a Park Ranger, then Assistant Park Manager, shifted to a Water Quality Specialist and finally landed at Charlevoix Great Lakes Fisheries Station where he wound up plying the Great Lakes on the SV Steelhead doing fisheries research.

With a growing family he decided to stay closer to home and took all of his experiences into the classroom, teaching science and coaching Cross Country and Track. A chance introduction to kayaks allowed him to spend more time with Debbie (his wife) and be on the water as the kids grew up and left the farm. Paul wasn't really sure if he would like being so far from the farm but that all changed when he went on the PaddleFlorida Keys Challenge. He said "it was incredible and very different than the Great Lakes. Listening to the stories and experiences of the other paddlers was great too!" He now looks forward to exploring all the nooks and crannies Florida has to offer.

If you are looking for Paul on one of the trips just follow the hammered dulcimer music drifting on the breeze.

Christy Kurtz

Christy Kurtz is a self-described Paddling Addict, paddling over 90 times a year. Her monthly paddles include frequent outings near her home of Kansas City, and also trips to the Ozarks, Great Lakes, Maine and Florida Gulf Coast. As founder and leader of Paddle KC paddling club in Kansas City, she plans and hosts a wide variety of paddling events for recreational, touring and sea, and whitewater paddlers who use kayaks, paddleboards and canoes. Some of her favorite adventures have included the Upper Buffalo National River (AR), Underground Kayaking & Cave Camping (MO), Missouri River multi-day sandbar camping (MO), New Years Day River Float on the Current River (MO), Acadia National Park and Maine Coast (ME), Apostle Islands (WI), Mardi Gras Plus Swamp & River (LA), and the MR340 River Race. One of Christy's favorite sayings is, "There's no such thing as bad weather - there's only inappropriate clothing and gear" which reflects her can-do attitude and determination to make the most of every day on the water. If Christy is on your trip, know that there is always a Bag O' Fun ready to liven up campfire time after the excellent Paddle Florida nightly entertainment (if anyone is still lively by then!).

Don McCumber

"Woodkayaker" McCumber is a Florida Master Naturalist and author who has been kayaking in southwest Florida for over 25 years. He was the Captain of Diana Nyad's kayak team, protecting Diana from sharks (non-lethal methods only) during her swim from Cuba to Florida. He is a passionate nature lover with a broad-based knowledge of the local ecosystems. McCumber has been involved with Paddle Florida as a guide and presenter on several trips. He has many stories about his adventures and encounters with the wildlife of the Everglades...and beyond. As a member of several southwest Florida kayak clubs, McCumber has led many trips. He organized "Kayak Camping 101" for Paradise Coast Paddler's Club to help introduce new kayak campers to wilderness camping in the 10,000 Islands. McCumber brings his knowledge and experience to Everglades Area Tours as their kayak camping guide, leading multiple-night kayak camping trips and kayaking day experiences into Everglades National Park and the 10,000 Islands National Wildlife Refuge.

Don Yackel

Don Yackel was born under the water sign, Aquarius. Perhaps that helps explain his lifelong affinity for water and boats. Or perhaps it’s genetic, as his great, great grandfather was a boat builder who built barges for the Erie Canal. From his early years as a power boater, to his middle years as a sailor, to the last 26 years spent in kayaks, Don has enjoyed a life spent on the water, “messing around in boats.” During his kayaking years he completed more than 65 multi-day trips, spent 324 days camped in small tents all over Florida, the USA, and the world, and has paddled more than 3,700 miles in doing so. Many of those trips have been with Paddle Florida. Don is the author of a first book that describes ten of these adventures (The Idling Bulldozer and other Paddling Adventures), with a second book (The Seventy Thousand Dollar Outhouse) expected on bookshelves by year’s end. Many Paddle Florida trip reports can be found at his website, Yackman.com.

Bob Whytal - Scouting Volunteer

Bob Whytal is a retired School Administrator from Virginia in the area of Special Education and a former Reserve Deputy from Augusta County Virginia. Currently, Bob resides in Bradenton, Florida with a summer home close to the Appalachian Trail in Churchville, Virginia with his wife Michelle and dog Snickers. Bob has been camping since eight years old and involved in water sports since the age of fourteen. Surfing, canoeing, kayaking, scuba diving, camping, and snorkeling have been favorite activities. The longest kayak trip was from Everglade City to Flamingo for a total distance of 120 miles. In terms of whitewater, I have canoed and kayaked various portions of the New River up to Class III, rafting the Gauley (Level V), and New River Gorge (Level IV). The outdoors and exploring new areas to kayak, raft, hike, and camp are activities of interest. Recently assisted scouting a possible new kayak trip with Janice and Bill. I was hooked and thus volunteered to assist in the future. Loved it!

Outstanding Contributors

Jan Corcoran

Jan Corcoran is the co-founder of Paddle Florida and has been an integral part of every event since we started doing trips in March, 2008. She has made rest stops on the water one of the most fun parts of every trip. She has helped in scouting all of our trips and worked with our food service providers to make sure meals are up to our standards. In short, without Jan there would be no Paddle Florida.