Paddle Jam a unifying spectacle

An aerial photograph of the kayak raft.

An aerial photograph of the kayak raft.

Debbie Hooper special to the Times
Published: Wednesday, May 21, 2014 at 11:07 AM.

While it fell short of the world record, Saturday’s first ever Paddle Jam is being hailed by participants and organizers as a wonderful and uplifting experience.

“We may not have the world record, but we had world-class volunteers, sponsors, participants and support,” said the Rev. Themo Patriotis, who conceived of and organized the three-day event. “We set a world record for Southern hospitality. For a first time attempt, this was a tremendous success.”

The goal of Paddle Jam was to set the world’s record for the largest kayak raft. To do this, 2,100 kayakers would have had to paddle. Best estimate is that 333 participated in the raft on Saturday afternoon.

Staging area for the event was Battery Park. Paddlers began to arrive in town on Friday night and there was music in the park until about 9 p.m.

The city fenced off the area with the same chain link used during Florida Seafood Festival. Patriotis said this proved to be a wise move since visitors felt secure about leaving their boats at the launch site while they ate, checked in to lodgings and got a good night’s sleep before the paddle.

Hotels reported the jam put some heads on beds. People came from as far away as Montana and Colorado specifically to paddle. A team of 13 from Tennessee and Alabama called themselves the “Yakkin’ Dogs” and another groups identified themselves as Team Jellyfish.

Apalachicola Police Chief Bobby Varnes complimented participants on Friday afternoon. “The crowd is very laid back,” he said. This is the way I like it.”

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