Meandering through tunnels of mangroves. Being upside down underwater while in a kayak and learning to roll back upright again – these are experiences visitors to the 7th Annual Paradise Coast Paddlers Festival in Isles of Capri can share this weekend.
“The whole day is just fun … and they’ll learn a little bit,” said Michael Devlin, president of the Paradise Coast Paddlers Club.
There is no cost to any of the mains events, which include guided kayak tours, shows, races, as well as lessons on kayak designs, paddling styles, rescues and survival techniques.
Participants may bring a kayak or rent one. Lunch may be brought from home or a buffet may be purchased from the Isles of Capri Fish House, 203 Capri Blvd., Isles of Capri, which is where kayakers will meet.
The festival kicks off 8:30 a.m., Saturday, April 14, with a day of education, including classes taught by award-winning and renowned kayakers. The classes had all sold out as of Wednesday, but people are invited to come and observe, Devlin said.
If you go
7th Annual Paradise Coast Paddlers Festival
When: 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, April 14 and 8 a.m. to about 4 p.m., Sunday, April 15
Where: Isles of Capri Fish House, 203 Capri Blvd., Naples
How much: Free festival Sunday, classes sold out at $69, kayak rentals, raffle tickets and buffet available
Festival information: 348-0880, www.paradiscoastpaddlers.com
Why: Have fun, get out on the water, learn new skills and be a safer kayaker
Both days, regardless of skill level or experience, everyone will be seeing and experiencing one thing in common—personal flotation devices are required, said Devlin.
Safety is the primary lesson that organizers want to teach this weekend, said Chris Boland, owner of Naples Kayak Company and a founder of Paradise Coast Paddlers Club.
It’s almost a pet peeve of the organizers, said Boland.
“You find the better the kayaker, the better their tendency to where their life jackets. It’s crazy to me,” said Devlin.
Being safe doesn’t mean having any less fun, he said. There are circumstances that people may not think will happen to them, but kayakers often drown in three feet of water and it could have been prevented, he said.
“Kayakers get thrown out of the water by manatees all the time. They don’t see you and jump out of the water like whales,” Devlin said.
Getting hit in the head or injured in such a circumstance makes the PFD’s crucial.
Safety, maneuvering and general kayak information will also be taught with oceanographer Ken Fink teaching fundamentals of sea kayaking for beginners to experienced paddlers. Fink is among the founders of modern sea kayaking and at age 75 can out-paddle most experienced people half his age, said Devlin.
Jay Rose, a champion Greenland style kayaker of Naples Kayak Company will be teaching rolling classes using standard paddles and the Greenland stick, a skinnier paddle than the standard paddle.
“There probably aren’t 100 kayakers in the state of Florida who even know how to roll,” said Devlin.
People love to see how it is done and there are 35 recognized Greenland ways of doing it and numerous more, he said
“It’s actually pretty easy, but it’s counter-intuitive,” said Devlin.
Guided tours through the mangroves are from 9 to 11 a.m., Sunday, April 15. Another guided tour geared toward beginning paddlers sets off across the bay at 9:30 a.m. Then, at noon, there will be a short race to Johnson Island, which is visible from the Fish House.
“The Barrel Race, that’s the cool race,” said Devlin. The Barrel Race begins at 3 p.m., following the one-hour rescue clinic taught by Rose and Boland that begins 2 p.m. Sunday.
The Barrel Race is about quick maneuvering as kayakers set out to paddle around three buoys set up in a triangle.
“It’s like a rodeo – only you’re in a kayak,” said Devlin.