Big Paddling? Big Success!
By Dan Breitwieser, WCJB TV 20 News.
Thursday concluded the first ever Paddle Florida--a 123-mile trip along the Suwannee River. Despite the distance, paddlers said the week long event was a breeze.
The soft hush of a paddle on the water is hardly detectable. In fact, the quiet calm of kayaks matches the beast these paddlers glided by to finish the trip, the namesake of Manatee Springs.
It all started 7 days and 123 miles ago at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, north of Live Oak. That sounds like a lot, but Sena Bergeron of Gainesville says it's a terrific trip. And she's only been kayaking for five months.
"I think the longest I have ever paddled was 12 miles," says Bergeron. "I hadn't been doing it for very long. But anybody can do it! It was great!"
But many others people traveled a lot farther, just for the privilege of a beautiful, yet repititious, arm- exercise. Becki Nash Wright came all the way from the cold of upstate New York to paddle with her sister, who winters in Suwannee.
"Everything was great," says Nash Wright. "People were wonderful. Everyone was willing to help each other out, just awesome!"
Bill Richards organized the entire event after participating in a similar trip in Georgia.
"People said ooh, it was such a gamble," says Richards. "But it really wasn't because I knew 100 people that would do this."
All in all about 135 people paddled for the full seven days. And about 30 others took the option of doing a half- trip. About the only thing people disagreed about was what was their favorite part--whether it was the springs, or the wildlife, or just the ability to commune with nature. And while finding a week to spare was not too difficult for the many who are enjoying retirement, others like Bergeron said it was well worth using up vacation.
"Definitely," she says. "This is definitely better than sitting behind a desk! Everybody should do it!"
Paddlers paid 250 dollars for the full week, and an extra 150 if they wanted their food covered. Richards says he hopes to do a similar trip in November. For more information, you can check them out on the web, at www.paddleflorida.org.
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