Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival makes a splash on Sanibel


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Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival makes a splash on Sanibel

By Sara Belsole. CREATED Nov 3, 2013 - UPDATED: Nov 4, 2013

SANIBEL, Fla. - Ready, Set, paddle!

Sanibel hosted the eighth annual Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival this weekend. It's sponsored by Lee County Parks and Recreation and the Visitor's Bureau, showing paddlers from around the world what we've got right here in Lee County. 

"It's to promote the Blueway and the trail, the 190 miles of trail we have in Lee County," Blueway Coordinator Jesse Lavender said.

The Blueway runs from Collier County to Charlotte County. For veteran kayaker Brian Houston, it doesn't get any better than the Blueway.

"We have an environment and ecosystem that is rich and healthy, not without its challenges, but overall we've got it all, we've got manatees, we've got dolphins, birds of all types," Houston said.

Brian's son, John, is following in dad's footsteps. He teaches classes and gives guided tours at the Historic Tween Waters Marina. Sunday he competed in the festival's annual relay race.

"I am doing the paddle board portion," John Houston said. "It's downwind so it's going to make it more fun."

The Houston's were just two of the about 1,200 paddlers that hit the water this weekend. And many of them weren't even from Southwest Florida.

"I have gotten many phone calls from people as far as Germany, a lot of Germans and Canadians have called me," Lavender said.

The event is good for the local economy and a sign that this summer's murky waters caused by the Lake O releases isn't keeping paddlers away.

"It has no effected this event, the water looks really clear," Lavender said.
And while the water quality gets a passing grade, the windy weather is a different story.
"This is not for the faint of heart, dealing with winds in the 15 plus mph winds," Brian Houston said.
All the proceeds form this event are going to benefit CROW, the Clinic for Rehabilitation of Wildlife, and also the Blueway Paddling Trail.