South Walton was the site for several "firsts,” in mid-October, not the least of which was World Paddle For The Planet, which was held here for the first time.
This was the first time the paddle had been held outside of founder Bob Purdy's home of Canada, and it was his first time he visited our area.
The event, which drew 60 to 70 people, was held to call attention to the way we live and spur changes for our planet.
Invited to hold his event here, Purdy, who has paddled every day since Jan. 1, 2011, said he was blown away by the experience and calls it a success.
"The paddle here exceeded all expectations," he told the Sun this week. "To see all the support in Walton County for this and the beautiful area, the people and the impact was wonderful. The paddle Saturday and Sunday was the icing on the cake."
Purdy said the best of all was the silent procession of paddlers to the water on Saturday following the invocation by the Muskogee Indian Tribe and prayer in their native tongue.
"We took the first lap around Lake Powell in silence to meditate on the state of the planet. A lot of respect was shown and it was very moving," he said.
Although Purdy was moved by the reception from South Walton, the event will be held elsewhere next year at a locale yet to be determined. But there will be a satellite paddle held here in tandem with the actual event.
Organizer Joan Vienot agreed it was a fantastic event with the most impressive being the talk by the Muskogees, who live in Bruce.
"They spoke about standing up against injustice wherever we see it, whether against man or the earth. And then a flutist began playing. It just set the tone," she said.
While the 60-70 people paddled on and off during the event, three completed the 24-hour paddle under a half moon. They were Purdy, Justin Riney, and Paul Zipes, paddling for his Sun Jammers team. Support boats provided necessities during the 24-hour paddle.
"Their level of commitment was impressive," said Vienot.
Members of the Emerald Coast Paddlers came for the finish of the 24-hour paddle, as the three men paddled to shore to the sound of Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror." The World Paddle event was to benefit Mother Ocean's Florida Expedition 500. Vienot said the final tally is not in yet, but she believes there will be a nice check for Mother Ocean.