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Paddle Sports, the Key to Unlocking Ecotourism

In the Panhandle, we are blessed to be surrounded by some of the most beautiful and ecologically diverse, fresh & marine water bodies on the planet. Paddle sports are the perfect way to experience. So, get out and explore!

The oldest form of paddle sports, canoeing, is a great way to explore our natural waterways. Canoeing is an ancient mode of transportation that dates to the late 19th century. This simple recreational activity involves a single-bladed paddle and the canoe. It’s best to have friend along for the canoe ride to share the adventure, and to make paddling a breeze. Fun fact, canoeing and kayaking became part of the Olympic Games in the summer of 1936.

Photo: Kayaking on Econfina Creek.

Credit: Laura Tiu, UF/IFAS Okaloosa & Walton Counties.

Kayaking is a bit different than canoeing. In contrast, kayaks were first built thousands of years ago in the Artic. The first kayaks were built of driftwood and animal skin. Kayaks can be made of many different materials today, and inflatable crafts are gaining popularity. The sitting position of the paddler on a kayak is more centrally located than with the canoe, with legs in front and the paddler facing forward. This activity also requires a double-bladed paddle. Sizes and shapes will vary depending on the region and size of the paddler. Kayaking is great to couple with diving, snorkeling, or even fishing. Sites for these activities can often range for miles off the coastline or in remote river locations with no launching or wading point nearby. Not only is kayaking much cheaper than purchasing and maintaining a power boat, it’s an environmentally friendly and healthy way to navigate waters.

Paddleboarding is the new kid on the block. This is essentially stand up paddle surfing. Paddleboarders stand up right on boards and use a single-bladed paddle to thrust through the surf. This activity is usually performed on the open ocean. It’s especially fun in Florida bays. A paddleboard that is approximately 14’ in length is usually the recommended size for most settings. There are various types of boards that can be used, including surfboards. Most paddleboards are made of fiberglass.

As with any watercraft, a buoyancy aid or life jacket should be equipped on the person always. The participant should also have various other measures of safety gear. A whistle for signaling for help should be with all participants. For kayakers and canoers, rope is helpful to have when someone needs rescue. A diving knife and water shoes can be helpful when bottom terrain poses a threat. Proper clothing such as a rash guard or wet suit will help protect from the elements. Don’t forget your sunscreen any time of year!

For more information on paddle sports and ecotourism please contact your local county extension office.

UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.