The first in a four-race series to bring the kayak community together will take place at 8:30 a.m. on July 7.
Shane Catts wants to get the community involved in the kayak and paddle boarding worlds.
Catts said he often sees the same kayakers and paddle boarders around Longboat Key, but they don’t often come together. So now Happy Paddler Kayak Tours & EcoVentures, owned by Catts and his wife, Holly Rolls, is starting a kayak race series kicking off July 7.
Catts said he hopes the races series can bring those kayakers together and build the community.
“It’s going to be fun,” Catts said. “We don’t have a whole lot of organization in this sort of outdoor community here. There’s a lot of fishing clubs and things like that but having an organized event for paddlers like this, it’s something I’d really like to see more of and be a part of.”
Each race will take place on the first Saturday of the month from July to October.
The races will launch at 8:30 a.m. from the Happy Paddler hut at Bayfront Park, 4052 Gulf of Mexico Drive. The 5-mile race will end at the couple’s store, Island Adventure Outfitters, 6844 Gulf of Mexico Drive.
Catts expects the 5-mile race will take about an hour and a half to complete, except for the racers in the elite class, who will complete it faster.
“It’s a fun race,” he said. “It’s not anything serious. It’s not like this is going to be a serious competition. There is an elite class for those who have their own elite racing boat, but they’re in a class of their own.”
Once the race ends, participants will enjoy a barbecue and to-be-determined prizes at the store. Plus, they can cool off in the air conditioning. There is no cost to participate in the race, but for those who need to rent a kayak, Happy Paddler will provide those at a discounted rate. Renters can then use the kayaks the rest of the day, if they aren’t too tired from racing.
Participants can compete in one race or come back for the others. Catts said he made it a series to pique repeated interest.
Happy Paddler can transport the kayaks back to Bayfront from the store at Whitney Plaza.
Happy Paddler opened at Bayfront Park in June 2017. Catts said he has seen business increase over the past year as people become more aware that they were there.
“Manatees are there every single day, so now people are understanding the beauty of it out there,” he said.