Poker paddle set for Sept. 7 - A woman rowing a boat in the water - Sea kayak
Participants in last year’s Florida Keys Poker Paddle. The fourth annual event happens Sept. 6-8, with the paddle set for 9 a.m. on Sept. 7. DOUG FINGER/Contributed

It’s not a race. It’s a poker paddle.

Paddlers, families and those looking for a relaxing yet adventurous weekend can paddle 4 miles along the coast of Islamorada at the fourth annual Florida Keys Poker Paddle. Set for Sept. 6-8, participants paddle at their own leisure, making five stops along the Florida Bay and drawing a card at each, in hopes of getting the best poker hand. 

Proceeds from the annual poker paddle go to assist veterans, first responders and their families. This year, organizer Cheryl McBay says funds will be donated to Gold Star Teen Adventures, which provides year-round outdoor adventure programs for the surviving youth of those who’ve lost their lives in the line of duty. The purpose of the program is to provide healing, mentorship and adventure opportunities.

“This is our second year giving 100% of the proceeds to Gold Star Teen Adventures,” McBay said. “It’s an amazing not-for-profit that gives kids a chance to come down to the Keys to learn how to scuba dive, paddleboard and snorkel.”

On Friday, Sept. 6, from 5 to 9 p.m., stop by Casa Mar, located at MM 90, Oceanside, in Tavernier for a packet pick up at PADDLE! The Florida Keys. Check out the shop and grab a cold drink at Mar Bar. 

On Saturday, Sept. 7, the poker paddle kicks off at 9 a.m. at Islamorada Library Beach, 84 Johnston Road, Islamorada. Drop off your gear any time after 7 a.m. All cars will park across U.S.1 on Old Highway, but make sure to drop off any board, kayaks and gear before parking. Sheriff’s deputies will be on site to help escort people across the road. Those who rented a paddleboard or kayak can find them on the beach. 

From noon to 3 p.m., awards for three poker hands will happen at Florida Keys Brewing Co., 81611 Old Highway. Remember, it’s not a race. It’s a poker paddle. Free lunch and a beer will be provided in the beer garden. 

“Last year, paddlers saw turtles, manatees and dolphins on route,” McBay said. “The route is beautiful, and on the bay, paddlers are protected from the wind.”

A farewell breakfast will take place at Mangrove Mike’s from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 8. Enjoy a delicious breakfast and 20 percent off. There will also be raffle drawings. 

Sign up for the poker paddle by visiting On Monday, Sept. 2, the registration price will go up. 

“It’s such a fun event and it’s all for a great cause,” McBay said.

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