Special Olympics paddleboarder receives custom paddle

Andrea Stetson
Special to the News-Press
Meghan Mellentine tries out her special paddle. Instructor Mark Melancon shows her how to hold it, while Steve Nagy, who created the paddle, watches.

Meghan Mellentine is paddling more proficiently because of a community that cares. For three years the paddleboarder, who takes part in Special Olympics, had trouble paddling on the left side because of limited motion in her wrist.

But now a special paddle is changing all that. John Paeno, owner of CGT Kayak in Bonita Springs, donated a high-quality carbon fiber Rivera paddle and Steve Nagy redesigned it especially for Mellentine, who has Downs Syndrome. Nagy added a carbon fiber handle that adjusts for Melletine’s height and the way she holds the paddle.

“This should help her gain more energy on that side,” said Mark Melancon, head coach of Lee County’s Stand Up Paddleboard Team.

Before Mellentine had the new paddle, she basically paddled with just one hand on the left side.

“She lacks the ability to twist or rotate her left wrist,” explained her father, Bill Mellentine.

Meghan Mellentine has been paddleboarding for three years and loves the sport.

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Meghan Mellentine tries out her special paddle on the Imperial River with her instructor Mark Melancon.

Easier time

“I love everything except for the falling off part,” she said.

Nagy said the handle will give Mellentine a much easier time on the water.

Meghan Mellentine tries out her special paddle.

“With her lack of mobility in the wrist this will help,” Nagy explained. “The handle gives her the pivoting motion she needs.”

After receiving the new paddle this week in the CGT shop in Bonita Springs, Mellentine and Melancon headed across the street to try it out on the Imperial River.

It took a few minutes for her to get the concept of where and how to grip. But once she mastered that, she was paddling with both hands on both sides of the board.

“I got it,” she said as she placed her hands in the correct position on the new paddle.

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Meghan Mellentine tries out her special paddle on the Imperial River with instructor Mark Melancon.


The duo went up and down the river, practicing moving the paddleboard forward and backward, getting her out of the trees on the side of the river and backing away from the docks. She remained stable on the board the entire time and never fell in the water.

“We’re excited about the sport and Special Olympics,” Paeno said about why he wanted to help.

“As you paddleboard, you change sides,” Nagy said. “I knew she needed something that was 90 degrees to the paddle so she could move it. She had been paddling one handed on the left side. I wanted to make her something that could help her use both hands.”

Mellentine is looking forward to practicing and competing in Special Olympics paddleboarding with the new paddle.

She also takes part in Special Olympics tennis, swimming and bowling.

Meghan Mellentine tries out her special paddle on the Imperial River.

Paddle guides struggle for water access around Lovers Key

More information

Fundraisers for Paddleboard Special Olympics

Battle on the Blueway - June 11 & 12 - Lee and Collier Special Olympics, Fort Myers Beach - Crescent Family Park

Fourth Annual SUP Poker Run - June 4 - Florida Special Olympics, Isles of Capri

Race for Lovers Key - Aug. 14 - Lovers Key

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FROM THE ARCHIVE: Coverage of the 2015 Battle on the Blueway