Early last week anxious paddle boarders received their first glimpse of the new Florida Keys Poker Paddle course that starts and ends behind the library on Lower Matacumbe. 

“I am really excited about it,” says Cheryl McBay, owner of Florida Keys Brewing Co. and founder of the Florida Keys Poker Paddle. “We coordinated it with the tides and hopefully there is going to be little wind on the bayside. Plus the scenery as we paddle through the mangroves will be awesome.”

McBay and her husband, Craig, hatched the idea after meeting a doctor at their brewery who had used paddling to raise money for charities. 

This year’s proceeds are earmarked for Gold Star Teen Adventures – a non-profit that provides “healing, mentorship, development, and opportunity to the children of Special Operations service members who lost their lives in the line of duty.”

For $60, participants get a cool T-shirt, schwag bag loaded with goodies, and entrance into the poker game. 

After leaving the beach at the library, paddlers will head east to the Lorelei before cruising back west to the Islander’s bayside beach. The third stop will be a pair of pontoon boats anchored in shallow water to give the paddlers a break before they head back east. 

“It’s definitely not a race,” laughs McBay about the 3.7 mile course. “Most complete it in about an hour and a half to two hours. One lady got it done in about half an hour, but it’s leisurely. If-you-see-a-manatee-just hang-out-with-it-kind-of-pace.” 

Naturally, the competition concludes with free beer at the Florida Keys Brewing Co. where the winning poker hand will receive an original Pasta Pantaleo creation. Other prizes include a two-night stay at the Cheeca Lodge and a chance to win one-of-a-kind art by David Wirth and Jessica Ann. 

Sponsors include Otherside Board Sports, Paddle!, Mangrove Mike’s, Florida Keys Brewing Co. Pasta Pantaleo, Cheeca Lodge, Publix, Red Bull, the Monroe County Tourist Development Council, David Wirth and Jessica Ann for the awards, the Weekly, and the Islamorada Half Marathon & 10k. For more info, find the Florida Keys Poker Paddle on Facebook. From there you can register. 

• Packet pickup: 
Friday, Sept. 7 @ Paddle!
“90773 Old Hwy., Unit 1

• Race start:
Saturday, Sept. 8 a.m. @ * a.m. @ Library Beach
84 Johnston Rd., Islamorada

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