By Jessica Tuggle
SEBASTIAN - Kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddleboards and more will fill the St. Sebastian River on Nov. 17 for a day of racing.
Recreational and competitive paddlers will come together for "Up the River with a Paddle," a fundraiser for By the River, a nonprofit senior living community in Sebastian.
The event starts at 9 a.m. and the aquatic competitions will begin at 10 a.m. at Dale Wimbrow Park on Roseland Road in Sebastian, said Sita Gange Harrison, public relations coordinator for By the River.
Mike and Kristen Beck of Florida Outdoor Center have helped organize the event for the second consecutive year, and this year promises to be even bigger than last year, she said.
All human-powered craft will be allowed to compete, including canoes, kayaks, row boats and paddleboards, Mrs. Beck said.
The event is a sanctioned American Canoe Association event, she said.
Race lengths will vary based on age and skill level.
The entry fees begin at $5 for children younger than 14 and are $35 for individual adult racers. The entry fees for the different team races vary.
Early bird registration will continue through Nov. 10 and includes a free T-shirt and swag bag.
Watercrafts are available to rent.
"Right now we have 25 teams signed up," said Ms. Harrison.
Many of the individual racers are older residents, which is something By the River is thrilled to see.
"Seniors are kayaking because it is low impact but good exercise and they are out in nature," Ms. Harrison said.
People who have never tried kayaking or canoeing as a sport are often surprised when they enjoy it, Ms. Beck said.
A team that entered last year in the elephant canoe race - a canoe that holds six or seven people - were surprised when they won their race.
"They weren't the most athletic group, but they were the best at teamwork. Sometimes people don't realize what they are capable of," Ms. Beck.
Ms. Beck said river races are something that have rarely or never been done before in Indian River County, but the beauty and accessibility of the river makes it a great choice.
Bhagavati Das, committee chairman for the event, is looking forward to his own race event.
Last year he was an enthusiastic spectator and thoroughly enjoyed the event, but this year he will be splashing in the water himself. While this is a fun fundraising event for the community, there is a bigger picture he's hoping to communicate.
"It's not just about donations, we'd like to increase public awareness," Mr. Das said.
By the River is a residential community for low-income seniors in Indian River County. It is available for seniors who want to live independently, but have a few things they need each day to help them.
In a recent poll, Hometown News readers voted By the River as the best nursing home in the area. While it is not a nursing home, it is a community designed to help keep seniors living as independently as possible, there was no other category for senior care, so they were placed there.
"We were surprised that out of all the senior care centers in the county the public knew so much about our good reputation and the need we fulfill for low-income seniors," Ms. Harrison said.
To pre-register or for more information about the fundraiser, visit www.flocracing.com.
For more information about By the River, visit www.bytheriver.org.