Navigating through an array bodies of water has always been an integral part of living in Southwestern Florida ever since humans set foot on it. The Native American tribes made canoes from dug out wood and paddled along its serene waterways as well as big galleon ships. Today, much of the region still depends on her waters. The Gulf has been a great source of seafood and the mangrove canals are spectacular tourist destinations. This love for the water culminates in the annual Great Dock Canoe Races where people from all over town compete to become the fastest boat-rower in the land; or should we say on the sea. And of course, the added cash prize sure can’t hurt.
This annual event that has been running for more than 40 years and counting is brought to the public by an establishment located near the Charter Club Resort of Naples Bay. The racing event is divided into several categories such as Amateurs, Professionals, 65 and Up, there’s one category for 12-17 years old and so on. Contestants will follow a specific track which just huddles along the bay area up to a certain point and then back to the starting line. Each year, there is always great fun and excitement and more and more participants are coming in as the years go by. This means there’s more cheering at the starting point as supporters and simple onlookers come to witness the fun and excitement.
Contestants and their supporters carry their canoes out and place them on the water then the former prepares for a grueling competition while the latter stands back on the boardwalk with anticipation and excitement. Every year there’s also something to look forward to as the Great Dock Canoe Races have themes that change every year. The year’s themes must be reflected on the painted designs of the boats of the participants. There was one event where the theme was fantasy-based and so all the contestants painted their boats with bright and whimsical colors that you may associate with the fantasy world. The most elaborately designed boat which attracted the most people wins a cash prize.
The scene every year goes like this: every race goes up with an exciting start as the rowers composed of 2 or 3 in a single canoe; put their game faces on as their water craft bobs along the gentle waves. The fans and supporters are behind them on a boardwalk, shouting, cheering. The faces of the contestants at this point would look focused and faced straight up ahead, the noise of the crowd has probably drowned before reaching their ears. Then, as the ‘go’ signal is given, the crowd rises up in cheer as the paddlers paddle their way with all their might to get ahead of the race early on. The paddlers huff and puff with every heave, using all their might to get to the finish line first. Then, when the rowers are back on sight, the crowd explodes into cheer again as they brace themselves for the winner.
But words are just words; you should come to the Great Dock Canoe Races in Naples, Florida to experience the excitement first hand.