For many paddlers, the frigid waters and fickle weather of spring are ample excuse to stay on dry land until balmy summer days return. Pass on early season paddling, though, and you miss countless opportunities to refresh and refine skills before that big summer trip.
Across the country, kayak event organizers are welcoming the wet weather of spring. Think of it as the ultimate spring training—after all, if you can master wet exits and rescues in May, imagine how easy they’ll be in August.
“Spring is really the best time to get people excited about kayaking,” says James Roberts, co-owner of Ontario Sea Kayak Centre (OSKC) and, with partner Dympna Hayes, founder of the annual Paddlepalooza Kayak Festival, held in May on Georgian Bay.
Early season events provide an opportunity to engage participants at an accessible, grassroots level while months of paddling pleasure lie ahead—and spring fever is at its worst. For Roberts and Hayes, Paddlepalooza is a chance to reconnect and help paddlers brush up on rusty skills after a long winter off the water.
Further south, spring offers an idyllic alchemy of air and water temperatures, seemingly made just for paddlers. Traditional Inuit Paddlers of the Southeast organizer, Fern White, says participants at last year’s Summerton, South Carolina, event “enjoyed abundant sunshine, daytime temperatures in the ‘80s and water temperatures in the ‘70s.”
Wherever you paddle, check out these great spring paddling events near you.
Suwannee River Paddling Festival
April 3–5; Suwannee River State Park, Florida
Situated in a state park at the confluence of the scenic Suwannee and Withlacoochee Rivers, the festival features paddling trips on both rivers, Saturday night concert, camping, hiking and an evening ghost tour.
East Coast Paddlesports & Outdoor Festival
April 17–19; Charleston, South Carolina
Kayaking, canoeing, standup paddling and more—enjoy beginner and master classes taught by leading instructors. Plus boat demos and more than 70 exhibitors showcasing the latest outdoor equipment.
Port Angeles Kayak and Film Festival
April 18–19; Port Angeles, Washington
Open to all levels and ages, this community event celebrates all paddling, from sea and lake to river and surf. Learn about kayak fishing, take rolling and surf classes, get educated on tides and currents, and watch remarkable films of folks doing amazing feats.
Traditional Inuit Paddlers of the Southeast
May 15–17; Summerton, South Carolina
This second annual weekend fosters friendships, skills, knowledge and gear all built around traditional and Greenland paddling techniques and culture.
Georgian Bay Paddlepalooza
May 22–24; Parry Sound, Ontario
Featuring top coaches, superb scenery, great camping and a Saturday night party with live music, the festival includes on-water clinics in strokes, rescues, rolling and more, plus dry land lessons on risk management, cooking, campcraft and navigation.
Women on Water
June 5–7; Parry Sound, Ontario
This fun, all-women paddling festival is perfect for beginners to advanced paddlers, featuring kayak, canoe and standup paddling (SUP) skills sessions.