A paddler with debris collected from the water. CONTRIBUTED

The Send It South Challenge is back virtually for the second year in a row. The event that raises money and awareness for the Islamorada-based nonprofit Florida Bay Forever Save Our Waters will run through Dec. 20. Challengers will once again have the opportunity to paddle 3.5-99 miles depending on skill and commitment level to raise awareness to support Everglades restoration and sending clean water south to Florida Bay. 

“We were thrilled with the participation in last year’s event during the height of COVID-19,” said executive director Emma Haydocy. “We wanted to replicate the virtual event in 2021 to keep our participants safe and maximize participation. Given all of the momentous progress for Everglades restoration this year, we want to grow the event and amplify calls to send water south while enjoying all that our Florida Keys waters have to offer.”

This year’s event will include an informal packet pick-up event at the nonprofit’s new office at the Green Turtle Hammock Nature Preserve. Participants are encouraged to take advantage of the kayak access on-site and launch from that location for paddles throughout the challenge. 

To keep participants safe, local paddle shops are hosting excursions to help paddlers get in their miles in small groups. Both Paddle the Florida Keys and Otherside Boardsports are hosting paddles during the challenge. 

“Paddle the Florida Keys is proud to support Florida Bay Forever through the Send it South Challenge,” said owner Scott Baste. “As Keys residents and business owners, our livelihood is directly tied to the health of Florida Bay. We’re committed to keeping Florida Bay healthy through conscious eco- tourism. We believe that when people experience nature, they are more inclined to want to protect it.”

The 2022 challenge is already in the works. Next year’s challenge will be a hybrid in-person endurance paddle race across Florida Bay from Flamingo with a virtual challenge component for all who prefer the relaxed, paddle from home format. The Monroe County Tourism Development Council is providing funding to help promote the challenge. Registration for the 2021 Send It South Challenge, and more information, are at or from Florida Bay Forever at 305-563-7970.

A young paddler with a medal upon completion of the Send It South Challenge. CONTRIBUTED
A young paddler on Florida Bay. CONTRIBUTED

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