J ust after sunrise on March 3, some 70-plus kayaks, canoes, SUPs and small sailboats will shove off from Fort DeSoto Park in St. Petersburg. Their destination: Key Largo, at the beginning of the Florida Keys, some 300 miles south.
This will be the 11th year of the WaterTribe Everglades Challenge, and for 10 of those years Grande Tours Kayak Center has been the official first stop check-in point on the race. All paddlers must stop here, sign their name and drop it in a locked box. Then they decide to either get back in their craft and continue on to the next check-in at Chokoloskee or stop to rest, eat or sleep. Last year the first paddlers started arriving around
2:30 p.m., some 7.5 after the official start. In 2011, 66 boats entered this race, with only 28 completing the grueling 300 miles. The fastest time posted was 1 day, 16 hours; the longest time was 7 days, 2 hours.
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