DUNEDIN — Like most stand-up paddleboarding enthusiasts, I've never paid much attention to technique. I just take it slow and go with the flow.
"That's no problem," paddleboard racer Karen Mirlenbrink explained. "We'll make a racer out of you yet."
Mirlenbrink and her husband, Rob, an accomplished waterman in his own right, organize the Shark Bite Challenge at Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin, one of the largest paddling festivals in Florida. This weekend they'll host another event that they hope will become equally as popular — the World Paddle Association Championships on St. Pete Beach....
Brittany Pierce doesn't mind coed triathlons. The elite triathlete, a Clearwater Beach lifeguard, is used to competing with men. • "They make you go faster," she explained. "But I can understand why some women, especially if they are new to the sport, can find it kind of intimidating." • The swim portion, the opening leg of a triathlon, can sometimes feel like a free-for-all. It's not uncommon to get slapped, punched and kicked as competitors struggle to find a lane to open water. • Excuse the cliche, but it is often "every man for himself." • Race organizer Fred Rzymek said his all-women's triathlon will have a different vibe. "So far everybody has been really receptive," he said. "We are expecting 500 women at Fort De Soto this weekend, which is great for a first-time event."...
Clutching a telephone pole 60 feet above the ground, I wondered why I hadn't told Aaron Corr* that I was scared of heights.
"There is nothing to it," Corr had said as I started the long climb to the zip line above. "Just don't look down."
His advice worked for the first six stories, but now standing atop a small platform with no handrails, I had to look somewhere.
"Scared might be too strong a word," I said to myself, trying to get psyched up for what lay ahead. "Don't like heights would be more accurate."...
TAMPA — Like many die-hard "prop" men, I once snubbed my nose at jet-powered watercraft. A dedicated outboard owner, I dismissed these recreational vessels as nothing more than jet skis on steroids.
Times have changed.
"Where's my ride?" I asked Justin Greene, pointing to a beefy boat on the back of a trailer outside Barney's Motorcycle & Marine in St. Petersburg. "I'm here to do a test drive."...
The Royal Clipper harkens back to an era when an aristocratic elite traveled the Caribbean in style. With a waterline of 439 feet and an average speed of 10 knots, the Monaco-based Clipper line is for cruisers interested in an Old World experience.
But the Royal Clipper, the first five-mast, fully rigged sailing ship to be built since 1902, has 42 sails that require constant care and maintenance, and when one rips or needs to be replaced, the Clipper line turns to a New World sail loft, St. Petersburg's Island Nautical....
TARPON SPRINGS — After kayaking nearly 40 miles in one day, the last thing Mary Mangiapia wanted to do was tow some stranded jet skiers to shore.
"I had no choice," said the 28-year-old from Tampa who hopes to be the first woman to complete the 1,500-mile Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail. "But they were stranded and needed help."
The man and the woman told Mangiapia, who started her expedition Sept. 6 near the Alabama border, that their personal watercraft broke down Monday afternoon. They spent the night on a sandbar and tried to flag down passing boaters all day Tuesday off of Tarpon Springs. ...
TAMPA — Like many at the International Boatbuilders Exhibition & Conference, Steve Schoderer is optimistic about the future of the nation's marine industry.
"We had some rough years," said Schoderer of Mercury Marine, one the country's leading outboard motor manufacturers. "But things are looking up. One reason — technology."
Schoderer, while standing on the dock outside the Tampa Convention Center, said he thinks high-tech features such as his company's new "joystick" operating system will be the next big thing in every new pleasure cruiser....
Veteran racer Bob Noble Jr. knows that the secret to success on the offshore powerboat circuit is just making it across the finish line.
"It is a long season," said Noble, whose STIHL Offshore Racing team leads the points race heading into the Super Boat National Championship. "You try to rack up points as you go, but often it comes down to the last race. That's why everything counts."...
The perennial Florida debate over which to protect — boaters or manatees? — is heating up again in Pinellas County, where state officials are proposing rules that would slow traffic along the Intracoastal Waterway.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is reconsidering speed limits because of a rise in manatee deaths. Officials have identified 21 areas along Pinellas waterways that might warrant half-mile "slow speed" zones....
Chris Burke didn't know what to expect when he walked into the water off Catalina Island shortly before midnight on Monday.
"There's a lot that goes through your mind," said the 52-year-old contractor from St. Petersburg. "You know you are going to have to swim through the night. … It gets kind of lonely. There's a lot to think about."
But 11 hours, 22 minutes and 20 miles later, Burke made landfall on the California coast, completing the second leg of the coveted Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming....
TIERRA VERDE — I consider myself a pretty good caster, but occasionally I do snag a mangrove. I take great care when removing the lure, partly because I'm a cheapskate and can't stand losing a $7 MirrOlure. But I also know that fishing line kills.
On a warm September morning 20 years ago, I was touring the small islands of Tampa Bay, rookeries where pelicans and other birds come to raise their young. My friend Peter Clark, a biologist who had just started a non-profit called Tampa Bay Watch, wanted to show me first-hand what old monofilament fishing line can do....
MADEIRA BEACH — Like most fishermen, Capt. Mark Hubbard keeps his cards close to his chest.
"I don't want to give away all of my secrets," said Hubbard, whose family has been running party boats out of John's Pass for nearly 50 years. "If you want to know how to catch fish — book a trip."
Hubbard prides himself on keeping his repeat customers happy. He likes to send anglers home with fish for the pan, grill and smoker. But like most successful captains, he's a businessman. That's why it's surprising to see him on the list of speakers at this weekend's Florida Sportsman Expo at the Florida State Fairgrounds....
Sean Morris is a reluctant warrior. The soft-spoken communications student at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg never dreamed he'd be an "American Ninja." He just sort of stumbled into it.
"One of the things I have always prided myself on is my balance," said the 6-foot-2, 170-pound extreme athlete. "But this was something that I just fell into."
Morris, 26, a former skateboarder who was born and raised in Sarasota, installed hurricane shutters part time to help pay his way through school....
TAMPA — Taking off on a Jetovator isn't hard. It's the landing that hurts.
"Are you okay?" Eddie McNamara asked as I climbed out from beneath the hydro-powered water bike. "You landed pretty hard."
I grumbled something, rolled back to my feet and made a mental note: Next time stay in deep water, far away from the sandbar.
"You were doing pretty good," McNamara added, "until you crashed."...
Lionfish tournament at Harvey Outpost
The Guy Harvey Outpost on St. Pete Beach is hosting a lionfish spearfishing tournament on Sept. 6. Lionfish are an invasive species that compete with native fish such as gag and red grouper on local reefs. The only way to get rid of lionfish is to shoot them. Divers who participate in the Lionfish Safari must surrender their catch on Sept. 7 when the Outpost hosts a Family Fun Day. All lionfish captured during the tournament will be filleted, cooked and served to participants. Lionfish have venomous spines, but when handled properly, are fine dinner fare. The entry fee is $20. The deadline to sign up is Saturday. Go to guyslionfishsafari.com....