KEY WEST, Fla. — Watersports enthusiasts on paddleboards and other self-propelled watercraft can race around the continental United States’ southernmost island during the annual Key West Paddle Classic. The challenge highlights a long weekend of action-oriented events scheduled Thursday through Sunday, May 2-5.
The Paddle Classic main event is a 12-mile distance race around the island of Key West set for Saturday, May 4. The distance challenge is open to paddlers on stand-up paddleboards of various lengths, surf SUPs, prone boards, outrigger canoes, surf skis and kayaks. Three-person stand-up relay teams also are eligible to compete.
Presented by the Florida Keys’ adventure tour company Lazy Dog, the race is a World Paddle Association national points event and a Paddle League international points event.
Saturday’s racing action begins with a 7 a.m. participant check-in, followed by breakfast and a vendor expo at Key West’s Higgs Beach, located beside the Atlantic Ocean on Atlantic Boulevard. An 8:15 a.m. racers meeting and an 8:30 a.m. Hawaiian blessing precede the 9 a.m. ocean start off the beach.
The 12-mile course takes competitors past island landmarks such as the Southernmost Point marker, Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park and Mallory Square, site of Key West’s nightly sunset celebration, before they reach the finish at Higgs Beach.
Participants can relax after the race at a 2 p.m. lunch and a 3 p.m. awards celebration.
Pre-race activities Thursday, May 2, include a paddle yoga class, backcountry eco-tour and paddle clinic at Lazy Dog, 5114 U.S. Highway 1 at Hurricane Hole Marina. The following day, racers can learn from paddling pros during daytime clinics and attend a 5 p.m. kick-off party and registration at Salute on the Beach, located at 1000 Atlantic Blvd.
Events are to conclude Sunday, May 5, with a kids’ SUP clinic and race, and an offshore picnic at the legendary Snipe Point off Key West.
Entry fees for the 12-mile race begin at $85, with separate costs for associated events including clinics and the offshore picnic.
Event information, costs and registration: lazydog.com/events/paddleboard-classic/
Key West visitor information: fla-keys.com/keywest or 1-800-LAST-KEY