1) Where are you from? Your profession? I was born in Kansas City and lived all over the US due to my dad's job as a civil engineer. I have lived in Tampa and Ruskin, Florida for 32 years. I am a registered nurse with a certification in rehabilitation nursing and I presently do catastrophic medical care coordination in workman's compensation cases in Florida.
2) When and how did you become interested in paddling? I was a small child when my dad and his best friend would take me and, later, my younger brothers on overnight canoe trips with the Ozark Wilderness Waterways Club. The club did river cleanups too. I remember we went over once and my dad's friend grabbed me. It was quite exciting and wet! I remember at 5 or 6 I received a 100-mile patch from the club. I think I was hooked on paddling from then on. I began canoeing as a child. I began to kayak when I bought the used tandem that I have now in 1993 and have also gotten a solo kayak. These kayaks are my great connection with the water and nature.
3) Where is your favorite place to paddle? I live on the Little Manatee River. It is my favorite place. There are mangroves and tunnels in Cockroach and Little Cockroach Bay, a fantastic estuary full of fish, rays, crabs, and birds, and just a 20-minute paddle from my house. The tunnels open up onto southern Tampa Bay with little islands and sandy beaches to pull up on and eat lunch and swim.
4) What's the most interesting thing that ever happened to you on a paddling trip? It was on Christmas Eve and I had enjoyed Noche Buena with my family. I wanted to do a night paddle on the Little Manatee River, so I called my local best friend, Jim Freeman (a Paddle Florida alum), and asked him to join me in the tandem. He was ready. Away we went under a lovely big moon. Possibly due to the darkness we were getting much closer to the mullet, which really surprised them. After about 10-15 minutes of paddling, a big mullet about 18 inches long jumped up out of the water and landed between my legs in my open cockpit, slamming up against the side of the kayak and coming to rest behind the front seat Jim was in. We paddled to a shallow spot and I got out. I grabbed the mullet out of the boat and looked at him in the eye for a minute. He seemed to look back at me. He slipped from my hands and into the water he went. I will never forget it!
5) How many Paddle Florida trips have you gone on and to where? I have been on five Paddle Florida trips. I went on the Suwannee-Withlacoochee, the 10-day Florida Keys Challenge from Key Largo to Key West, the Peace River, the Wekiva/St. Johns River Ramble, and the Ochlockonee River in the Panhandle.
6) What keeps you coming back? The full nature immersion of paddling and camping coupled with the support of meals and gear shuttling makes the trips so much easier. I come back now to be a better paddler and to see friends I've made along the way during my experiences with Paddle Florida.
7) Can you describe a particular Paddle Florida trip highlight? There have been many. The three trips I did with my wife Mariella in our tandem were fabulous. Pulling into Fort Zachary at the end of the Keys trip with all the kayaks together was great. Frank Lindamood playing real Florida folk music around the campfire underneath the stars at Ochlockonee River State Park was remarkable.
8) What advice do you have for folks considering a Paddle Florida trip? Do a short weekend trip first to get a feeling for what Paddle Florida is all about. You'll be hooked and come back to do longer trips!