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Outdoorsman: Have kayak, will travel (audio)

PALMETTO

Have kayak, will travel. That’s Barry Newell.

“Never leave home without one,” said the 62-year-old Bay Pines Veterans Hospital medical technician.

Newell’s got one for almost every day of the week.

Five kayaks lie outside his childhood home on the north bank of the Manatee River, and almost every evening after work he’s out paddling in one.

“Dad built me my first one when I was 12,” he said. “It was one of those Popular Mechanics types built out of canvas.”

Newell’s current kayaks are made of Kevlar (three) and plastic (two), and range from 9.6 feet to 19 feet in length.

“There’s one I call the ‘tank’ because its heavy and indestructible,” Newell said. “When we get up into whitewater, there’s a lot rocks.”

Which is what he anticipates during next month’s Paddle Georgia 2010, an 81-mile, week-long adventure for 300 kayakers paddling in northeast Georgia from Franklin Springs to Augusta.

A member of the Tampa Bay Sea Kayakers, Newell has kayaked in Florida, Tennessee and South Carolina, but has come to appreciate the six-year-old event in Georgia. “We try to go out of state every now and then to find new and different places to go,” he said. “That’s what makes the Georgia river thing neat — it’s always a different river.”

Newell’s already done Georgia’s Flint, Etowah and Ocmulgee Rivers.

Beginning June 19, he’ll paddle the Savannah River for 22 miles and one of its major tributaries, the Broad River, for 52 and Clarks Hill Lake for seven.

According to April Ingle, executive director of the Georgia River Network in Athens, there is white water most of the trip.

“Typically, kayakers do 10 to 18 miles a day largely through rapids interspersed with calm flat water,” she said. “Fortunately, the drought we’ve had the last few years is over. It was difficult to paddle in those conditions. Now we have really nice flows and plenty of water.”

Newell can’t wait.

Compared to some of the jaunts he’s been on — i.e., kayaking 68 miles from Fort DeSoto to Placida, Fla. — this is a stroll on the beach.

“Cool water on a hot day in Georgia, you can’t beat it,” Newell said. “It’s like a catered camping trip, cheaper than a regular vacation and you get to see a part of the Southeast you don’t normally see. They supply you food, take your boat from one spot to the next. All you do is show up with your bag and camping equipment. You hang out and enjoy every day, paddle about 12-14 miles, and have entertainment at night. It’s great.”

Vin Mannix, columnist, can be reached at 745-7055.

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