Paddlesport Enthusiasts Unite in New Port Richey
The Cotee River Kayakers Club began as an informal meet-up group for kayakers who enjoy paddling in and around the Cotee River in 2020. It has grown tremendously in the short time it has been active and is becoming an integral part of what makes downtown New Port Richey special.
Jacob Freid was hired as a Marketing Specialist for the City of New Port Richey. His position involved growing the downtown area, and unifying businesses and residents to improve the City’s core. He loved kayaking in college.
Chopper Davis, one of the City’s Councilmen, took Jacob for a paddle on the Pithlachascotee River (known to locals at the “Cotee”) to expose him to New Port Richey’s amenities from a new perspective – the water – and it sparked an idea.
One thing led to another and the Cotee River Kayakers Club was started as a simple Facebook group to increase communications between the many individuals who paddled the 23-mile river.
The first Cotee River Kayakers Club group paddle was planned for September 20, 2020, from Sims Park in #downtownNPR to Frances Avenue Park, and back.
“Twenty-four kayakers, ranging from novice to experienced paddlers, had a great time paddling the five-kilometer stretch,” Jacob said, “And it has grown from there. Now we have over 750 members on the Facebook Group, and ‘yakkers’ have joined our events from as far as Clearwater and Dunedin.”
The ‘Cotee River winds 23-miles from James E. Grey Preserve in New Port Richey to the Gulf of Mexico. It offers varied environments, from the urban core at Sims Park to the waterfront restaurants of Port Richey one way and a wildlife-immersive experience headed to the Preserve the other.
The Cotee River Kayakers Club is committed to doing a stretch at a time. They emphasize fun over competition, with after-parties at local restaurants and taverns when the paddling is complete for low-key social interactions.
Cotee River Kayak Club Grows with Back-to-Back Paddle Adventures
“Because one of the pillars of the Cotee River Kayakers Club is inclusivity, we strive to make the club open and available to our members, and anyone who enjoys kayaking,” Jacob explained, “We found that several people wanted to join the first paddle but had commitments on Sunday mornings. In order to include them, the Club decided their next outing would be back-to-back paddles on Saturday evening and Sunday morning, October 17-18.”
The Saturday Sundown paddle set off at 5:30 with a medium-high tide and a leisurely return to Frances Avenue Park. Regular paddlers and new members alike joined in this second group paddle. Afterward, participants converged on the Social NPR rooftop to toast the success of a great trip.
The Sunday Morning Paddle set off along the same course. Because of the low tide, wildlife viewing was abundant. Kayakers spotted several species along the riverbanks, and the roseate spoonbill stood out for its distinctive pink coloring. The Sunday Morning Paddle concluded with healthy treats at ADAPT Freshness in downtown New Port Richey.
Club Members Expand the Fun
Christine Irons joined the inaugural paddle of the Cotee River Kayakers Club. She enjoys the camaraderie of paddling with fellow enthusiasts and, with the permission of the group’s creator, began organizing weekday paddles through the group.
“I like to paddle on weekdays when there is less traffic on the river,” Christine explained.
The first trip was to Durney Key, a beautiful park on the Gulf of Mexico that is a mile offshore. “It’s a doable paddle if the weather isn’t too windy,” Christine said. “We had a gorgeous day. Some of us paddled around the stilt houses and some relaxed onshore. We brought picnic lunches.”
Next, she organized a Witches Paddle in October, where paddling enthusiasts dress in witches’ hats and capes, decorating their kayaks and stand-up paddleboards, and make a spectacle of themselves – all while having fun.
“I had seen this done in other states and it looked like fun, so we set out mid-week and paddled from Sims Park to the Port Richey waterfront, where we stopped for drinks and fun at Nick’s Park. Nick’s Park offers public restrooms and a sandbar. Some packed picnics and some visited Hooters for their witches’ brew. It was a blast!”
“Especially on paddleboards, the costumed paddlers look like they’re flying on the river with their paddles mimicking brooms and their cackling just adds to the fun!
The highlight for me was when the dinosaur house on the river had their T-Rex roar at us! It was completely unexpected and just like Jurassic Park!” Christine continued.
A Local New Port Richey Business gets Involved
Kristal Stahl was a nurse who escaped away from the stress of the world on her Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP). She saw how hard Coronavirus was affecting her patients and wanted to help people enjoy the outdoors the same way she did.
After talking it over with her husband, they agreed to start a SUP rental and Ecotour business, calling it Tropical Water Adventures. Originally from Panama City, Kristal moved to Tampa. She and her family relocated to New Port Richey when an opportunity came up to buy a home there several years ago.
“I love New Port Richey. I love being part of Florida’s Sports Coast and helping people discover their love of paddle sports!” she shared with NatureCoaster, “The business just fell together. Right after we agreed to start it and bought our first paddleboards, a Pilates instructor called, wanting to rent all of them for a class. Now we offer classes together.”
Kristal discovered the Cotee River Kayakers Club through Jacob. She found that members of the Club have their own paddlecraft, but when friends or family want to join them, a rental is needed. Because Tropical Water Adventures offers free drop off and pick up, it was an easy match.
“We provide rentals of kayaks, SUPs, and even canoes throughout Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus Counties. The Cotee River Kayakers Club is so convenient to my location that I can offer members a discount,” Kristal said.
The Pithlachascotee River offers a Great Paddle
Both Kristal and Christine have enjoyed the friends made through the Cotee River Kayakers Club. Both are avid paddleboarders. They agree that the Cotee River is a great resource.
“The Cotee offers an urban paddle and a wilderness paddle. Depending on which part you traverse, you can enjoy a natural break from society or paddle to restaurants and entertainment venues,” Christine says.
“I love the many parks along the Cotee River,” Kristal says, “Francis Park is so clean. It is a challenge to find it because it is surrounded by private homes and property, but the launch is wonderful. There are seven parks along the river that offer paddlecraft launches. Additionally, Brasher’s Park is a great launch to the Gulf, Durney Key and the Stilt Houses,” Kristal says.
At Christmastime, a holiday Kayak Paddle was held. Starting in the late afternoon, paddlers in holiday garb entered their festive paddlecraft and began a water parade, complete with lights and pets! With over 30 craft entered, it was a rousing success.
Making Friends, Having Fun, and Getting Healthy are Part of the Club
What started as one man’s desire to connect the City’s paddlers has grown into a fun, enthusiastic group that enjoys meeting, paddling, and socializing afterward in one of downtown New Port Richey’s many restaurants, breweries or pubs… or a picnic on the beach.
You can find out more about the Cotee River Kayakers Club below. Meanwhile, we have heard rumblings about a possible Valentine paddle, so stay tuned!
About the Cotee River Kayakers Club
Started: August, 2020
How to Join: Visit their webpage and sign up for their newsletter or Join their Facebook Group
Next Paddle: Cupid’s Paddle on the Cotee February 13, 2021
Cost to Join: Free
Rental Information: Tropical Water Adventures (727) 808-2324