Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Paddlers still churn to Honeymoon Island

It’s not Hawaii but large outriggers will congregate at Honeymoon Island.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

It’s not Hawaii but large outriggers will congregate at Honeymoon Island.

HONEYMOON ISLAND — Twenty years ago, people seldom paddled around this barrier island that borders Hurricane Pass. At most, if you went to Honeymoon Island State Park on a weekend, you might have to share the water with a handful of snook fishermen after linesiders at the honey hole on the north end of the key.

But Honeymoon Island has seen its share of changes in recent decades. My old snook spot was long ago filled with sand, and the island, once my private paddling playground, has become the go-to place for paddle-sport enthusiasts.

In the early 1990s, when sit-on-top kayaks were introduced to the recreational market, paddlers had few opportunities to meet, swap stories and test their skills.

That changed in 2003 when married couple Karen and Rob Mirlenbrink put on the Shark Bite Challenge, an event showcasing the crown jewel of Florida's coastal park system.

"We started off small," said Karen, who owns a pilates studio in nearby Dunedin. "We wanted to just keep it going and be there the next year."

The Mirlenbrinks were already well respected in the paddling community. In 2010, the duo set a course record in the WaterTribe Ultra Marathon. Competing under the pseudonyms Good Beer Racing and Wicked Wahine, the Mirlenbrinks paddled 67 miles from St. Petersburg to Boca Grande in 10 hours, 40 minutes.

In the early years of the Shark Bite Challenge, the couple and their friends kept the race going.

"We'd have the same group of people come out: the prone paddlers, the outrigger canoes, the surf skis," Karen said. "But then two years ago, our numbers just exploded."

The reason: the standup paddleboard revolution. In sales and participation, SUPs are the hottest water sport in the United States.

"The growth has been just phenomenal," Mirlenbrink said.

Head to Honeymoon Island this weekend and you'll be sharing the beach with more than 300 paddlers of varying skill levels. Even if you don't paddle, you can see some of the state's top ocean athletes. You might even be inspired to sign up for next year.

.fast facts

Shark Bite Challenge

What/where: Paddling races at Honeymoon Island State Park, Dunedin

Saturday's schedule

10 a.m.: Outrigger canoe races. These traditional Hawaiian outrigger canoes are 50 feet long and weigh 400 pounds. Each sits six paddlers and is among the fastest watercraft on local waters. This race typically attracts top teams in the southeast United States.

11 a.m.: Surf N' Turf Kids sprint race. There aren't many SUP races for little ones. This is an ideal event for youngsters because they can paddle in a protected area, turn around at the buoy, then head back to the beach to tackle several obstacles.

2 p.m.: Feeding Frenzy technical course SUP race. New to the Shark Bite, this race features a short "course" race in the water followed by a beach run. The half-mile, time-trial course has several turns and challenges and will feature heats.

Sunday's schedule

10 a.m.: Distance races. These offshore races feature 4- and 8-mile courses and are open to any "sea-worthy" paddlecraft, including standup and prone paddleboards, single (OC-1) and double (OC-2) outrigger canoes, surf skis and sea kayaks.

More information: Registration for racing opens at 8 each morning, and proceeds benefit the Friends of the Island Parks, a citizen organization that supports Caladesi and Honeymoon Island state parks. Contact Karen Mirlenbrink at (727) 510-3493 or visit sharkbitechallenge.com.

Paddlers still churn to Honeymoon Island 04/11/13 [Last modified: Thursday, April 11, 2013 8:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pitching on no rest backfires for Erasmo Ramirez, Rays

    The Heater

    ARLINGTON, Texas — After battling through a 61/2-hour affair Sunday in Minnesota that was the second-longest game in franchise history, Rays officials were quick to decide that even though Erasmo Ramirez had just worked the 15th and final inning, they would stick with him to start Monday's game in Texas.

    Erasmo Ramirez, starting a day after closing a 15-inning marathon, struggles against the Rangers, comes out after throwing 43 pitches in 21/3 innings.
  2. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Monday's Rays-Rangers game

    The Heater

    The Rays had good reason to have faith in RHP Erasmo Ramirez starting Monday after closing Sunday based on his resiliency, versatility and efficiency. But, for whatever reason, he just didn't pitch well and got knocked out in the third.

  3. Rays journal: Dugout bench becomes bed for Logan Morrison at end of long night

    The Heater

    ARLINGTON, Texas — The Rays found creative ways to get through the physical and mental fatigue of the 6½ hours they spent playing — and ultimately winning — Sunday's game in Minnesota.

    Corey Dickerson drapes towels over an exhausted Logan Morrison in the dugout during the 15th inning of Sunday’s marathon victory.
  4. Rays at Rangers, 8:05 p.m. Tuesday, Arlington, Texas

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Rangers

    8:05, Globe Life Park, Arlington, Texas

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun, 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    SURPRISE, AZ - MARCH 2: Nick Martinez #22 of the Texas Rangers poses for a portrait during photo day at Surprise Stadium on March 2, 2015 in Surprise, Arizona. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)
  5. What major sporting event could Tampa Bay land next?

    Lightning Strikes

    We are on quite a roll as a community. First, we had a Super Bowl drop from the storm clouds into our lap. It just reaffirms the fact that Tampa Bay is great at lap. And Monday it became official: Next year's NHL All-Star Game will be held at Amalie Arena. The best in the world will be here to shoot and score. And …

    MVP Wayne Gretzky is congratulated at the 1999 NHL All-Star game, the last time the event was in Tampa Bay. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times file]