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Terry Tomalin, Times Outdoors/Fitness Editor

Terry Tomalin

Terry Tomalin moved to Florida in the spring of 1980 for the sun and surf. After graduating from the University of South Florida in 1983, Tomalin backpacked through Europe, returning a few months later to work for a small Central Florida newspaper, where his stories on the Ku Klux Klan resulted in the resignation of a local sheriff.

Tomalin joined the Times as a police reporter in 1986, but left 18 months later to backpack through New Zealand and Australia. He returned a year later and transferred to the sports department to cover the great outdoors.

During the past 20 years, Tomalin has lived with witch doctors in the Amazon, explored sunken Mayan archaeological sites in Mexico, sailed to Cuba, canoed to the Bahamas and swam around Key West. Tomalin loves to fish, surf, paddle and enjoy all Florida has to offer.

A fellow of the prestigious Explorer's Club in New York City, Tomalin holds a master's degree in Florida studies and is involved in many community organizations, including the Boy Scouts of America.

Phone: (727) 893-8808


Twitter: @WaterTribe

  1. Terry Tomalin's last tale takes his son and him to Wilderness Waterway



    The kayak guide had warned that the tide would be terrible in the morning, but the thought of hash browns and eggs over easy proved too much for my canoe companion.

    "Let's go for it," George Stovall said. "We can paddle through anything."

    Over the years, we had gone up and down this coastline a dozen times. They call this area Ten Thousand Islands, and though I've never stopped to count, I know I've seen at least 100 of them, and they all look the same....

    George Stovall, back, shared this and many other adventures with Terry Tomalin. Along is St. Petersburg’s Aaron Freedman.
  2. From the archives: A mean stretch of river. There's a section where the Hillsborough breaks into the so-called Seventeen Runs. Will it break our travelers?

    Editor's note: This column by Terry Tomalin appeared in print on December 7, 2007.

    DEAD RIVER PARK - Eric Hornsby smiled when I asked him about paddling a stretch of the Hillsborough River called Seventeen Runs.

    "It's pretty rough," the Hillsborough County park ranger said. "A lot of people get lost out there."

    In its upper reaches, the Hillsborough is a deep, fast-moving river. But get downriver from the state park and the terrain changes drastically. The sky disappears, replaced by a canopy of towering cypress trees as the river spreads out into a vast floodplain....

    A ranger erected this sign as a somewhat playful, yet serious warning to paddlers entering "The Runs" on the Hillsborough River. The rangers suggest that only experienced and well-prepared paddlers venture in with plenty of daylight to complete the 6-mile stretch - we're talking hours, so leaving a float plan with someone might be a good idea, too. [CARRIE PRATT   |   Times]
  3. From the archives: Portrait of a nephew as a young, happy camper


    Editor's note: This column by Terry Tomalin about his then-6-year-old nephew, Tyler Nelson, appeared in print on Jan. 6, 1991.

    Tyler Nelson dreamed of one day going camping with the big boys. "When are you going to take me camping, Uncle Terry?" he'd ask. "When can we go camping?"

    Like most adults, I had plenty of excuses.

    "I've been pretty busy at work, buddy. Soon," I'd reply. "Anyway, it's too hot to go camping . . . maybe when the weather gets a little cooler."...

  4. From the archives: In pursuit of the famous Swamp Ape


    Editor's note: This is a column by Terry Tomalin that appeared in print on Oct. 31, 1999.

    SOMEWHERE IN THE GREEN SWAMP — The search continues — this time at the nearby Withlacoochee River — for the much-discussed, little-seen beast.

    A full moon lit up the pond like a supermarket parking lot. A few feet away, an animal lurked in the shadows of the dense undergrowth at the water's edge....

    Terry Tomalin stands by a large campfire as he speaks to a group of Boy Scouts about the skunk ape that he says lives in the nearby forest. [Times (1999)]
  5. From the archive: One man, a kayak, the open, angry sea — Solitude is the quest


    Editor's note: This was the first of a three-part series chronicling Times outdoor writer Terry Tomalin's 75-mile journey down the west coast of Florida in a sea kayak. It appeared in print on Feb. 23, 1993.

    EVERGLADES CITY — The ranger appeared amused at my plan.

    "You're going to run down the outside alone," he said. "Why?"

    Solitude, I answered, and the physical challenge of carrying myself along 75 miles of inhospitable coast with nothing to bank on but biceps....

  6. Take it Outside Planner: Swim across America, Tampa Bay boat show, great gifts for outdoor lovers





    If you are out on Clearwater Beach on Saturday, join three-time Olympic champion Brooke Bennett for Swim Across America at Pier 60. The event has raised more than $600,000 in the past four years for cancer research. Swimmers of all ages and skill levels are welcome to participate as fundraisers in the half-mile, 1-mile or the "Iron Man Distance" 2.4-mile course. They can swim as individuals or as part of a team in honor of friends and loved ones who have fought, or are fighting cancer. Participants 18 and older are asked to raise a minimum of $500, and those younger than 18 pledge to raise $200. Swimmers participating in the "Iron Man Distance" 2.4-mile course are asked to raise $1,000. To register for the swim, visit

    A hogfish is one of the finest tasting fish in the Gulf of Mexico.
  7. Withlacoochee offers a plethora of canoeing options



    The Boy Scouts of Troop 219 have come to love but dread my campfire tales. As an amateur historian, I rely on real names, dates and places to bring my stories to life.

    Probably 99 percent of what I tell them is true. But it is that remaining 1 percent, the "unknown unknowns" as former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once called them, that keeps them up at night....

    The Withlacoochee River was the site of battles between Seminole warriors and the U.S. Army.
  8. Hurricane History Class: 10 lessons Tampa Bay can learn from 10 devastating storms


    They say those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

    That is especially true when it comes to hurricanes. Lessons from past storms could serve us well in future storms.

    Here's a look at 10 historic storms, what we've learned from them, and what we've forgotten.

    Great Galveston Hurricane (1900)

    In September 1900, Isaac Cline, the local representative of the newly formed U.S. Weather Bureau, heard rumblings of a storm forming to the southwest of Cuba. But the weatherman, who had previously published an article detailing why he thought the chances of a hurricane hitting the coast of Texas an impossibility, dismissed the reports....

    Hurricane Andrew, one of the costliest and most intense storms in U.S. history, barrels toward Florida’s east coast in August 1992.
  9. The gear you need to be ready for hurricane season


    Imagine being stranded on deserted island. There's no food or fresh water. You can bring whatever you want with you — but you will be on your own. What do you pack, and how? Those are the essential questions you should ask yourself as you put together a hurricane kit.

    • Start with a good container. You need to store your supplies and emergency gear in a plastic tote, one that is durable and easily transportable. A cooler with wheels is a good option because once you unpack your supplies you have a place to store fresh food and, if you're lucky, ice....

  10. St. Petersburg athlete is always up for an extreme adventure race


    Aaron Freedman doesn't think of himself as an "extreme" athlete, even though he has hiked the Grand Canyon from rim to rim and run the length of the Florida Keys.

    "I pretty much think I can do anything if I put my mind to it," said the 52-year-old St. Petersburg resident.

    Freedman was an average high school athlete, captain of his soccer team, a solid player but no Olympic contender. He spent three years in the Army and then embarked on a career in the air-conditioning business....

    Freedman races to a first-place masters finish in the 2010 Xterra Race. “I pretty much think I can do anything if I put my mind to it,” he says.
  11. Take it Outside Planner: Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Gulf Islands National Seashore, red snapper season



    Next time you head to Florida's east coast, make sure you swing by Jonathan Dickinson State Park. Located just south of Stuart, this state park has pine flatwoods, mangroves and river swamps. Bring your canoe, kayak or paddleboard, or rent one there and explore the Loxahatchee, Florida's first federally designated Wild and Scenic River. For a more structured adventure, take one of the ranger-guided tours of the 1930s pioneer homestead of Trapper Nelson, the "Wildman of the Loxahatchee." The 25-passenger Loxahatchee Queen II offers a two-hour tour of the river. Nelson eventually opened up one of the area's first tourist attractions, "Trapper's Zoo and Jungle Gardens." Nelson died in 1968 from a gunshot wound. Officials ruled it a suicide, but speculation swirled. Many a Trapper Nelson story has been told around a campfire. You can camp in an organized camp or head into the backcountry, where some say the old trapper's ghost wanders on moonlit nights. If you go, don't forget your fishing pole. The Loxahatchee has freshwater species such as largemouth bass upriver and snook and snapper as you approach the picnic area and boat ramp.

    There is much to do at Jonathan Dickinson State Park, which is south of Stuart.
  12. Veteran kingfisherman gets a surprise splash


    Ed Walker knows a tournament-winning fish when he sees one. The veteran angler had not planned to enter last month's King of the Beach tournament, but when he got his first glimpse of the monster king mackerel beneath his boat, he was glad he did.

    "I know what it takes to get at the top of the (leader) board," said Walker, a regular on the local kingfish circuit for more than 20 years. "This fish looked like a winner." The only problem was that the monster king was just beyond the reach. "I have a 12-foot gaff," said the Tarpon Springs charter boat captain. "But this fish was about 2 feet too deep. He just wouldn't give up those couple of extra feet no matter what we did."...

    Charter boat captain Ed Walker, right, shows off the 48-pound kingfish he had to take a swim with before landing in last month’s King of the Beach tournament.
  13. Take It Outside planner: Cayo Coasta, sea turtle safety, grouper regulations



    If you are looking for a good weekend getaway, Cayo Costa State Park, just across the pass from Boca Grande, has 9 miles of beautiful beach just waiting to be explored. This barrier island hasn't changed much since the Spanish explorers first sailed by its shores nearly 500 years ago. This island is heavily wooded — pine, oak and palm — and accessible only by private boat or ferry. With more than 2,000 acres of wilderness to explore, spend the day or stay in the night in a rustic cabin or your own tent. The sunsets are fabulous. Bring your snorkel gear and fishing rod for the beach and your hiking boots and mountain bike for the trails that crisscross the island. Captiva Cruises offers ferry service to the park from locations in Punta Gorda, Pine Island, Fort Myers, Sanibel Island and Captiva Island. Reservations are recommended. (239) 472-5100.

    Close up of a 33-inch gag grouper caught on artificial lures.
  14. Take It Outside planner: Fort Zachary Taylor, Myakka airboating and fishing tourney



    Looking for the best sunset in Florida? Fort Zachary Taylor, Florida's southernmost state park, is as good as it gets. Built in the mid 1800s to defend the nation's southeastern coastline, Fort Zachary Taylor played important roles in the Civil War and Spanish-American War. You can sign up for one of the daily guided tours or just chill out on Key West's favorite beach, at the southern end of the park. There's good fishing and snorkeling too, a pleasant break from the bars and T-shirt shops of Duval Street. Interesting fact: Fort Taylor was originally built 1,200 feet offshore, but in the mid 1960s a U.S. Navy dredging project landlocked the fortress.

    The Postal Service receives about 40,000 suggestions for stamp ideas each year, yet only about 25 topics make the cut. To have your photo appear on a stamp after is extremely rare.
  15. Two 65-pound king mackerels rule Wild West


    Anglers call it the Wild West for a reason. One hundred miles from shore, out in the deep blue water of the Gulf of Mexico, anything can happen.

    It is a dangerous, unforgiving place. If the weather takes a turn for the worse, you are on your own. Only a select few have the fortune or fortitude to venture that far from land.

    "You are out there," said Jim Naset, whose Pro Marine Team is known for its long runs and big fish. "It isn't always worth with it, but sometimes it is."...

    Brian Brandano, left, and Jim Naset hold the 65.85-pound king mackerel they caught last week to win the second leg of the Wild West Kingfish Tournament Series.