One of the things I love about the East Coast Paddlesports and Outdoor Festival is that each year I attend, I find something new that I would not have necessarily thought of trying myself. Last year, it was shooting a bow and arrow and riding a mountain bike across a seesaw. This year, it was sailing in a kayak and getting a fly fishing lesson.
This event, held at James Island County Park, is simply one of the best bang for the buck events in Charleston. Where else could you take a family of four kayaking, stand up paddling, climbing, biking, and slacklining for the day for $40? The East Coast Paddlesports Festival, along with various demo days vendors hold throughout the year, are basically the equivalent of winning the outdoor adventure sports lottery for the day. Loads of vendors are present all in one place. They bring their top of the line equipment, and there is no pressure to buy. Of course, if someone is in the market to buy, it's a great place to get tons of information in one spot and be able to compare kayaks, SUPs, PFDs, paddles, and more side by side. For $10, guests at the festival can purchase a "Try It" pass, which gives them access to all the equipment vendors bring to the park for the weekend.
Needless to say, I was happy to return to the festival again this year. I headed out to the park last Sunday with a few friends and we got in the water right away trying out gear that looked interesting. I had two favorites again this year.
The first rig I liked was a bit of a hybrid. It looked like a cross between a kayak, a sailboat, and an outrigger canoe. It turned out to be a Folbot foldable kayak with a BSD High Performance Sail Kit. I was a little curious how much sailing I was going to be able to do with my meager amount of knowledge on a smaller size lake, but I was able to get around fine once I found some wind. The setup also includes a small paddle attached to the top side of the kayak for those times when the wind dies down. For folks looking for an uncomplicated sailing set-up, this seems like a good match.
The other favorite of mine was a touring kayak made by Epic. Epic surfskis and sea kayaks have a sleek, high performance look to them. They make sport models for racing, and, to be honest, I thought I was going to have to work a lot harder engaging my core not to feel "tippy" in the kayak they set me up with. I was happily surprised with the model they matched me up with, the 16x Sea Kayak. This model is designed for both stability and maneuverability. It is 16 feet in length, 23 inches wide, and has a capacity of 335 pounds. It was also fitted with one of my favorite paddling options...a rudder. Once you paddle a kayak with a rudder system, it is hard to go back to being without one. Epic kayaks are fitted with Trackmaster Plus carbon rudders, which gave me the feeling of ample control in steering the kayak with the foot pedals. Overall, this kayak tracked well, had great maneuverability, and felt light and quick in the water. For folks looking for a fully equipped touring boat with lots of capacity for gear, this may be the kayak to fit the bill.
Epic 16x Touring Kayak
In addition to finding my favorite gear of the day, I had a couple of other great experiences at the festival. We met Jack Montague, a gentleman who's been fly fishing for fifty years and teaches lessons through the Wolfglen Fly Fishing school based out of Punta Gorda, FL. This was the kind of man who you simultaneously wanted to respect and learn from while also giving him a hug. One could tell he had the wisdom of years of experience and life lessons. He offered to give us a lesson in casting, and we gladly accepted. If you've ever seen someone cast a flyrod who knows what they are doing, it looks graceful and effortless. We did not know what we were doing, so it did not look very graceful at times, and certainly wasn't effortless. We were very thankful for the lesson however, and it was a neat thing to learn the basics of a skill in a sport that was new to all of us.
The last adventure of the day involved an alligator. In fact, the first title I thought of for this blog was "Paddling toward and then quickly away from an alligator". Don't worry, everyone's fingers and toes are in tact. We had heard there was a small gator hanging around the James Island County Park lake, so we kept our eyes out for him while we were paddling. He was well away from the crowds around a number of curves further back into the park water. One of the things I've always liked about kayaks and stand up paddlboards is how quietly they cut though the water. Hence, you can get very close to a lot of wildlife because the sound of the vessel doesn't scare them off. You can kind of sneak up on them without them knowing.
This particular alligator was practicing the art of stealthiness as well. He was very clearly minding his own business, when I realized my kayak was pointed directly at him. Now this wasn't the biggest alligator I've seen by any means, but he wasn't a juvenile anymore either. I quickly set another course directed away from his head and admired him from a further distance on my second pass. He never changed locations and probably found us to be quite mundane, but we sure were excited to have the encounter. You can catch a glimpse of our fly fishing instructor, Jack Montague and your friendly neighborhood alligator in the video we shot preceding these paragraphs. Jack is easy to find. The alligator makes an appearance at the bottom right side of the screen around 2:11.
Audra Gibson is a Christian, photographer, surfer, and a lover of teriyaki steak bites. She enjoys live music, doesn't like to be cold, and she's a bit of a cheese snob. Traveling Ink was her little brain child and she's very happy that you're here. She'd be oh so happy to recommend her favorite tours and attractions in town, help you with a team building event, or organize a day (or week) of fun for you and your group.Website: www.audragibson.com