Canoe & Kayak Fest adds to offerings

In its 22nd year, the East Coast Canoe & Kayak Festival is all about bringing together paddling enthusiasts for a weekend on and off the water.

One of the premier paddlesport events on the Atlantic Coast, it will be held Friday-Sunday at James Island County Park and will offer everything from history lessons to buying and selling opportunities, meaning it isn’t just for hard-core paddlers.

Carrying over from years past will be on-water classes, lectures and demonstrations, among other events.

Directed toward the novice and the experienced, well-known instructors will be on hand as the “heart” of the festival is the simultaneous running of four classrooms throughout the three-day event. Opportunities range from daily sampler packages for the beginner to a full weekend package designed for the paddling enthusiast.

The novice classes, offered by the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission, H2Outfitters and other vendors, provide an opportunity for the beginner to develop more proficient techniques with sea kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards.

The Master Classes cater to the paddler who is ready to move beyond the basics, offering participants the opportunity to work with expert leaders in their respective fields. Learn new strokes, rescues or dive in even deeper with slide shows of exotic paddling locations, how-to sessions on navigation, selecting or repairing equipment, safety and preparing gourmet cuisine fresh from your dry bag.

Onsite registration is offered 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. Prices vary for different activities.

And don’t forget the kids. Children are free to participate in activities with a registered adult. Families also can learn to paddle in clinics, compete in cardboard canoe races and register youths for camps.

If you’re looking to do more than learn, more than 50 equipment manufacturers will be onsite offering the chance to try the latest equipment. Test boats, paddles and accessories on the water, and speak with equipment designers.

Used gear also will be available, as folks are encouraged to bring items to sell.

This year’s featured speakers will be Mike Simpson and Will Rich of “SUP the Coast.”

Simpson and Rich paddled 1,800 miles on stand-up paddleboards from Key West, Fla., to Portland, Maine, to raise awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project and SUP Cleanup. Their trip, called SUP the Coast, recently was nominated for story of the year through SUP Connect, a stand-up paddleboarding magazine and community.

New this year are the Bodhi’s Revenge SUP Race and the Kayak Fishing Tournament.

Starting at 8 a.m. Sunday near the Folly Beach Fishing Pier, intermediate and advanced stand-up paddleboarders will take on Bodhi’s Revenge, “the Charleston area’s first and only SUP surf slalom and Battle of the Paddle-style event.”

This surf-style race includes buoy turns and a beach sprint, and is expected to draw a crowd.

Cash prizes will be awarded, and race proceeds will benefit the Surfrider Foundation of Charleston.

Also on Sunday, but at the James Island park, will be the fishing tournament, which will have novice and expert categories. The objective is for participants to photograph the longest “slam” for their category.

For full details on these two competitions, go to or call 795-4386.