04 April 2017
KEY WEST, Florida Keys — New and seasoned standup paddle sports fans of all ages can learn stroke fundamentals and techniques as well as enter to circumnavigate the continental United States' southernmost island during the 20th annual Key West Paddle Classic, Thursday through Sunday, April 27-30.
Thursday, April 27, features paddle-fit classes, paddle yoga, eco tours, demos and clinics with Lazy Dog at Hurricane Hole Marina, 5130 U.S. Highway 1, plus a 5-8 p.m. meet-and-greet happy hour. Friday’s schedule includes classes and paddle-performance clinics. The day’s final event is a 5-8 p.m. registration and packet pickup for racers at the Turtle Kraals Restaurant & Bar in Lands End Village, located at the foot of Margaret Street in Key West's Historic Seaport. The gathering features the emporium's offbeat turtle races.
The Paddle Classic’s main event is set for Saturday, April 29: a 12-mile around-Key-West distance race. While circumnavigating the island, competitors follow a course past island landmarks such as the Southernmost Point marker, Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park and Mallory Square before reaching the finish at Higgs Beach.
Saturday’s racing action kicks off with breakfast at 7:30 a.m. provided by local health food market Date & Thyme, along with an all-day vendor expo at Key West’s Higgs Beach beside the Atlantic Ocean on Atlantic Boulevard. The racers meeting is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. and precedes the ocean start off the beach.
Paddlers have five hours to complete the race. They can compete individually on a single paddle craft or as a group on a multiperson craft, or as a three-person relay team.
An awards celebration hosted by the Turtle Kraals Restaurant & Bar is planned beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday. Highlights include awards presentations, prize drawings, live music, dinner and libations. Dinner is free for all racers and is open to the public for $18 per person. Tickets for the dinner and raffle are to be available at the door.
The weekend concludes Sunday, April 30, with a morning kids’ SUP clinic and race, and a “Sunday Fun-day” boating trip for a sandbar party and picnic. The afternoon commences with “Classic” paddle games and events, including the option to enter a Regional Paddle Team Sprint Paddle Race between four-person teams on 22-foot inflatable SUPs. Sponsored by Red Paddle Co., the race qualifies paddlers for the Red Dragon World Series Championship to be held in October in Barbados.
Sanctioned by the World Paddle Association, the Key West Paddle Classic is a WPA Southeast Region national points race.
Event information and registration: lazydog.com/paddleboard-classic/
Key West visitor information: fla-keys.com/keywest  or 1-800-LAST-KEY 
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