Weekly “WHO is it?”: Kayak Dave

Kayak Dave Barker (3rd from right), with fellow instructor Chris Verlinde and Florida Master Naturalist students, enjoying the water and wildlife. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson, UF IFAS Extension

You know those people who just exude peace and calm? The type who never seem rattled, always go with the flow, and are positive about everything? For me, “Kayak Dave” Barker was that guy. He was a fixture at Navarre Beach, and so well known that a lot of folks never even knew his last name. He personified the “beach bum,” with his casual uniform of crocs, a tie-dyed shirt, a visor, and sunglasses, although he was anything but a loafer. While Kayak Dave ran an ecotour/kayak rental business out of the Navarre Beach Marine Sanctuary, he mostly gave freely of his time and expertise to the local community.

Kayak Dave was a valuable partner and Florida Master Naturalist co-instructor for over a decade. Photos courtesy UF IFAS Extension

I first met Dave sometime in the late 2000’s, when I started teaching Florida Master Naturalist classes with my Sea Grant colleagues. He had taken the classes already, and Chris Verlinde recruited him to be a co-instructor. He happily loaned us kayaks and arranged paddling trips in Navarre and all over Santa Rosa County. He often taught the “Interpretation” and “Environmental Ethics” classes, relaying his own experiences in the field to class participants. During our final project presentation and graduation party days, he would always bring his homemade yaupon tea–those Master Naturalist events were the first time I, and many others, had ever tried it.

Kayak Dave and coastal Master Naturalist students at the Navarre Beach Marine Sanctuary. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson, UF IFAS Extension

In addition to many years of volunteering with Extension, he was a dedicated volunteer with the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station. Kayak Dave gave selflessly to the program, assisting high school students with research projects, leading kayak outings for field trips and summer camps, and serving as a mentor.

In a hurried world where people are increasingly stressed and disconnected from nature, Kayak Dave seemed to have found the secret to the good life. Dave passed away on December 23, 2023, but his generosity and big heart for people and the coastal ecosystems he loved so much will live on in the thousands of individuals he impacted.


Posted: January 3, 2024

Category: Coasts & Marine, Natural Resources
Tags: Ecotourism, Environmental Education, Recreation, Weekly What Is It, Youth Science Lessons

Subscribe For More Great Content

IFAS Blogs Categories