Area’s outdoor sports hits full bloom this weekend

Climbing is among the activities participants at the East Coast Paddlesports and Outdoor Festival can test out using a “Try It” pass.

As a long-time reader and fan of “Outside” magazine, I’ve often thought that Charleston was a microcosm of the lifestyle the periodical covers.

Our community is active, outdoors-oriented and, for the most part, sensitive to the environment. And while our food scene tilts toward the decadent, the movement toward healthier food is apparent and growing.

And if there is one weekend that demonstrates Charleston’s “Outside” lifestyle, it’s this one.

Celebrating its 25th year this weekend, the renamed East Coast Paddlesports and Outdoor Festival is the centerpiece of the weekend, turning James Island County Park into a swarm of activity.

Two years ago, Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission broadened the scope of the East Coast Canoe and Kayak Festival to include many more activities in addition to canoeing, kayaking and the darling of local waterways in recent years, stand-up paddleboarding.

The festival added mountain biking, slacklining, archery, climbing and disc golf. The event brings together enthusiasts of all ages and experience levels with world-renowned instructors and sports equipment manufacturers.

PRC spokeswoman Sarah Reynolds says that some of the festival’s “on-water programs and sessions” are full, but that there is plenty of room in classroom sessions and the rest of the festival activities.

Packages for the festival range from $155 for the full weekend of activities to $75 for Sunday’s event. Or get a “Try It” pass for $10 to try out a range of activities.

The commission kicks off the weekend 7:30-11 p.m. Friday with a special springtime edition of the Reggae Nights Summer Concert Series. The concert is free to festival registrants, county park Gold Pass members and children ages 12 and younger and is $10 for anyone else.

Among the local businesses that have embraced Charleston’s outdoor festival is Half-Moon Outfitters, which also will offer a kick-off event: a screening of the films from the Banff Mountain Film Festival.

The screen starts at 7 p.m. Friday at Charleston Music Hall, 37 John St. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door.

Half-Moon Owner Beezer Molten calls Banff “the best, most inspirational night at the movies that you could ever have.”

“The Banff Centre does an amazing job curating these movies and nothing else that I know of can bring you up to speed quicker with the revolution that is going on with film and outdoor sport,” says Molten.

“The films aren’t just for the outdoor enthusiasts though. The human interest stories are just as inspirational and reach all age levels. Banff has become the tribal drumbeat for all backcountry sport enthusiasts.”

Meanwhile, the festival itself will host a “sneak peek” of the Reel Paddling Film Festival at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Edisto Hall, also at James Island County Park. Admission is free.

The festival seeks out the world’s best paddling films to audiences in Canada, United States and around the world and hopes to inspire people to explore rivers, lakes and oceans, push their limits and appreciate the heritage of wild places.

Meanwhile, the commission is further pumping up the weekend by moving another high energy event from mid-March to Saturday.

The 18th annual Palmetto Pump and USA Climbing Competition will be 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday at James Island County Park’s 50-foot climbing wall.

The competition, presented by the commission and Half-Moon, attracts climbers throughout the mid-Atlantic and Southeast for this USA Climbing event.

No competition experience is necessary. The event is open to ages 4 and older, and categories are determined by age and gender, but climbers ages 14 and younger must be accompanied by an adult chaperone.

The late fee is $45. Registration closes today. Spectators are free of charge with the park’s $1 per person admission fee.

And the climbers won’t be the only ones that will get the rush of competition.

In addition to Palmetto Pump, Reynolds says other competitions include the East Coast Outdoor Fest Island Toss disc golf tournament at 9 a.m., the King of the Hill Mountain Bike Race at 4 p.m., and the BIC One Design SUP race at 4:30 p.m. Saturday. All of the competitions are free with the $10 Try It pass or any registration

The competition leaves James Island County Park and heads to Folly Beach to wrap up the weekend on Sunday.

The commission and Half-Moon Outfitters combined efforts to bring back Bodhi’s Revenge, the Charleston area’s only stand-up paddleboarding surf slalom and “Battle of the Paddle” style event, at 9 a.m. Sunday.

Bodhi’s Revenge is billed as appealing to intermediate and advanced paddlers as well as spectators: “A unique surf-style race to the area, Bodhi’s Revenge will feature a slalom surf course with buoy turns. The Johnny Utah Course will feature two loops with one beach sprint in between while The Bodhi Course will feature four loops with three beach sprints in between. Both will finish with a 50-yard straight beach sprint to finish line.”

The event benefits the Surfrider Foundation, which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s oceans, waves and beaches for all people, through conservation activism, research and education, or CARE.

The race is a World Paddle Association regional event, so racers are expected to travel great distances for such a distinctive competition.

All racers will need to register through paddle guru,, by making an account.

Building off the success of a family training program for the Cooper River Bridge Run, the nonprofit Louie’s Kids is holding the Fit Family Five, a seven-week running program designed to get families ready for the Floppin’ Flounder 5K on June 6.

“We had such amazing success with Under & Over Bridge Run program,” says Louis Yuhasz, founder of Louie’s Kids. “It was truly one of, if not the most successful program we’ve ever had. Why? It was a family program — you couldn’t drop off on the practices.”

Yuhasz says 34 families participated and 108 people completed the Bridge Run.

The new program will be held 6:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park. It starts Tuesday. For details, email