One of the Florida Paddling Trails Association's missions is to build Florida's paddling community. In this section we report on prominent figures in the community, as well as the Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail (commonly referred to as The CT) and the paddlers who've completed it.
Beginning at Big Lagoon State Park near Pensacola, extending around the Florida peninsula and Keys, and ending at Fort Clinch State Park near the Georgia border, the Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail (commonly referred to as The CT) is a 1,515-mile sea kayaking paradise. The trail includes every Florida coastal habitat type, from barrier island dune systems to salt marsh to mangroves. Numerous historical sites and points of interest are accessible by kayak along with colorful fishing communities and urban centers.
The CT is divided into 26 segments. Each segment is unique, ranging from the remote Big Bend Coast and Everglades/Florida Bay wilderness, to the more urbanized coastlines of Pinellas County and Fort Lauderdale. The trail is utilized by thousands of Florida residents and visitors alike who paddle the trail for a few hours, days, weeks or months. Some hardy souls have paddled the entire trail, and others seek to complete the trail in segments over several years, similar to how hikers often tackle the Florida or Appalachian Trail. The trail is laid out in a counter clockwise direction.
CT paddlers tend to fall into two categories, "through paddlers" and "section paddlers". "Through paddlers" tend to have limited time to dedicate to completing the CT and try to paddle it in as short of time as their schedule allows. Other through paddlers have a little more time to complete it and cover the less interesting stretches at a faster pace and take more time to savor their favorite stretches. "Segment paddlers" generally paddle 1 - 6 days at a time and may take several years to complete the entire CT. These paddlers have the advantage of choosing their weather, tides and paddle direction. Regardless of your approach to paddling the CT, you will find it an incredibly enriching way to experience Florida's long coastline, and one that few people ever experience.
Volunteer Trail Keepers help maintain primitive campsites and 'adopt' stretches of this long, long trail. We always need more assistance so please consider signing on as a Trail Keeper to help keep this iconic trail a treasure for all paddlers to enjoy.
Learn More: Office of Greenways & Trails Circumnavigation Trail
The paddling season of 2008 and early 2009 marked the first attempts by people to paddle the entire circumnavigational trail (CT). Through their feedback and suggestions, these explorers helped state planners improve the trail and open the way for other paddlers. The FPTA network of volunteers often serves as a type of AAA on the water to assist long distance paddlers. Paddlers can complete the trail by segments over several years or in one paddling season, but all segments (including at least one direction in the Keys) must be paddled to be part of this section.
Matt Keene of Clermont, Fl, began Sept 15, 2008 at Ft. Clinch and ended Jan 5, 2009 at Big Lagoon State Park, Pensacola, Fl. He was the first paddler to complete the entire trail since it was established. He was accompanied part of the way by two other companions, Jodi Eller and Matt Gallagher. Several FPTA volunteers helped along the way. He and Jodi (now married) then backpacked the entire Florida Trail. Matt is currently the FPTA director for Region K (Space Coast).
Mike Ruso and Dan Dick started on November 12, 2008, at Big Lagoon State Park near Pensacola and finished on March 26 2009. They are the first west to east paddlers to finish the trail. They had a SPOT Messenger device that allowed people to track their movements on their website. Mike developed an informative and practical guide for those interested in paddling the circumnavigational trail: http://thrupaddlingflorida.jimdo.com/.
Charles Ingle of Tallahassee became the fourth person to complete the entire 1,515-mile Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail. When he reached Ft. Clinch State Park on Tuesday, January 26th, 2010, he had paddled a total of 63 days, averaging 24 miles per day. Jake Stachovak began a 5000 mile "Portage to Portage Paddling Project" around the eastern United States. He began his journey in early December 2009 on the Wisconsin River in Portage, WI, and paddled down the icy Mississippi to the Gulf. He paddled the circumnavigational trail in 2010 and began his successful return up the east coast and through the Great Lakes back to Wisconsin: http://www.portagetoportage.com/.
Ian Brown of Orlando began his journey on the entire trail in November of 2009 at Big Lagoon and, after many stops and starts, finished at Fort Clinch in late summer of 2010. Several FPTA members assisted him along the way. This photo of Ian was taken by Mark Adams.
Warren Johnson of Hoover, Alabama, completed the CT in two parts, beginning in 2011 at Big Lagoon and arriving at the Georgia border in August of 2012 at age 62. He had already gained notoriety by paddling the Alabama Scenic River Trail both directions in one trip.
In March of 2013, Daniel Alvarez of Tallahassee completed a nine-month, 4,000-mile kayaking journey from upper Minnesota to Key West called Paddling the Heart of America. The trip included the Mississippi River and Gulf Coast. He surprised everyone by continuing his journey up the east coast, finishing the CT and completing a loop through the Great Lakes that same year: http://predictablylost.com
Gus Bianchi began paddling the CT by segments in Apalachicola in December 2009. After 13 trips, ranging from 40 to 212 miles accompanied by a number of different paddling partners, Gus completed all the CT segments at age 66 on September 13, 2013 in Cedar Key.
Carl W. Anderson from Fernandina Beach, Florida , completed the CT in sections beginning in early 2011 at the lower Aucilla launch, completed each section as time permitted, and arrived at Fort Clinch State Park on September 16th 2013 at age 67. Carl paddled most of the trail with Gus Bianchi and his wife Barbara.
Jodi Eller of St. Augustine became the first woman to complete the CT. She paddled most of the trail in 2008 with husband Matt Keene, the first CT thru paddler, and she completed the remaining segments in late 2013 with assistance from FPTA members. "The trail is amazing," she said. "It goes through so many different ecosystems. How the beaches change along the trail is just incredible. The trail made me a stronger paddler and it also redefined who I am in a way, bringing me back to the essence of being human. It's a powerful experience to go through."
Marc DeLuca and Jim Windle, two retired police officers from Charlotte, North Carolina, began their journey at Big Lagoon State Park on November 2nd, 2013 and ended on March 1st, 2014. They were greeted at the end by thru paddlers Gus Bianchi, Carl Anderson and Ian Brown: http://KayakAroundFlorida.wordpress.com
Mary Mangiapi is the 14th person to have completed the trail and the first woman to complete the trail in one paddling season. She began her trek September 6, 2014 at Big Lagoon and finished December 10, 2014 at Fort Clinch. "I have been endurance paddling for 19 years in Florida and can say that this trip is an incredible challenge," she said. "Along the way, I have encountered 10' seas and numerous storms. I even cracked a Kevlar bulkhead while crossing Tampa Bay in big waves. I also have teeth marks in my kayak from a bull shark." She paddled an 18 foot Epic kayak.
Jeff Buncie is the 15th person to complete the CT, just one part of a crazy long-distance endeavor he calls the BNC Odysseia. According to his Facebook site: "the BNC Odysseia is in fact a measure of one's endurance both body and mind. I have compelled a journey that will encompass the next 4 1/2 - 5 years of my existence. Over these years, the goal will be to travel over 16,000 miles by foot and 5,000 miles by kayak. Follow his adventures on Facebook
Sean Bower is CT thru paddler number 16, arriving at Fort Clinch on April 4, 2015. He paddled along the Gulf to Key West in 2014 with Richard Wood, took a break, and continued his journey in 2015. To learn more, log onto http://gokayakflorida.wordpress.com.
Zane Blakey and Scotia Stein are the 17th and 18th persons to complete the trail. They embarked from Big Lagoon State Park on January 1st, 2015 and finished at Fort Clinch on April 18th that same year. They are the first people to paddle the entire trail in a tandem kayak. http://zaneandsco.wix.com/travels.
By paddling five miles to Key West on March 4, 2016 Richard Wood completed the trail in segments, making him the 19th person who has paddled the entire CT. Taking more than six years, he prides himself at being the slowest person to have completed the trail!
Nicho Rivera and Jake Parker started paddling the entire trail in early January of 2016 at Big Lagoon and finished on April 4 at Fort Clinch, making them the 20th and 21st paddlers who have completed the trail. Recognizing the need to be part of something bigger, they supported the Surfrider Florida Chapter and its focus in on the education and preservation of coastal waterways and our complex interaction with the oceans.
Rich Brand, number 22, completed the CT in 2106 as part of a much longer journey paddling the Great Loop that includes the Mississippi River, East Coast and Great Lakes. Follow along with him on his Facebook Page, Captured Heartbeats: https://www.facebook.com/Captured-Heartbeats-1389455564651776/.
Scott Warren, the 23rd paddler to complete the trail, started his journey October 30, 2016 at Big Lagoon and finished February 19, 2017 at Fort Clinch. He was well received and supported by trail angels throughout his journey and was joined by several thru paddlers at the end. http://www.h2otraveler.com/.
Tim the Baker, number 24, finished the trail at Clearwater Beach on February 17, the first for 2018. "I just bloodied my knuckles on the same seawall I dropped in at 26 months ago," he said. "I ended with a lot of big days in fair weather."