Epic Journey on Florida's Waterways Will Cover 2,000 Miles in One Year

December 29, 2012 by SoWal Staff

It's called Expedition Florida 500 and Justin Riney and his crew launch from Pensacola on New Year's Day 2013 for 365 straight days spent on the water covering the whole of Florida.

They will paddle a majority of Florida's interior and coastal waterways - from the Gulf Coast south to Key West, visiting the Dry Tortugas (by powerboat), and then paddling north up the Atlantic coast to arrive in Jacksonville by July fourth. The remainder of the year will be spent exploring the state's major springs, lakes and rivers.

Look for Justin and his crew in Destin and South Walton from January 8-11. They'll be carrying camping gear, water, navigation equipment, cameras and more on their paddleboards so they can document their awesome journey with regular postings of experiences, photos and videos to their Facebook page and websites.

From the expedition's Facebook page:

Mother Ocean, Quiksilver Waterman, and Tahoe SUP have partnered to launch a yearlong project in 2013 called Expedition Florida 500 (XF500). XF500 is a modern-day exploration of Florida’s coastline, waterways, and aquatic ecosystem as seen through the eyes of the waterman.

2013 is Florida's 500th Anniversary since Ponce de Leon arrived back in 1513; in celebration of this momentous occasion, the three organizations will unite to embark on a yearlong journey combining the best of exploration, adventure, stewardship, science, and sport into a package that will include the full gamut of the waterman’s lifestyle.

The team will consist of watermen from all three organizations, spending the first half of the year exploring the coastline: chasing swell in the Atlantic, freediving Spanish shipwrecks, sailing in the Gulf of Mexico, stand up paddling the state’s coastline, catching mini-season lobsters in July, spearfishing in the Dry Tortugas, stopping into local beachside communities and hosting cleanups. They’ll encourage others to paddle with them, including team riders from Quiksilver and various celebrity paddlers. They’ll also be mapping the coastline and waterways with the help of Below the Surface and their Riverview Project (imagine Google Street View for rivers). In addition, the team will be collecting research and data along the way to further ocean science.

Team XF500 will then turn inland, spending the second half of the year along the rivers, lakes, estuaries, and marshland – the intricate network that makes up the Florida freshwater ecosystem. They’ll document, map, and explore the waterways in similar fashion as they did with the coastline. They’ll camp and airboat through the Everglades, canoe the natural springs, drive old pickup trucks that run on algae biofuel, film amazing Florida wildlife and scenery, kayak and stand up paddle the rivers and waterways, and leave the land in better and cleaner condition than when they arrived. Camping and living off the land will be the norm.

The expedition’s primary goal is to highlight the importance of stewardship efforts as they relate to the ocean, coastlines, waterways, and the marine ecosystem. Florida is unique in that it embodies the entire freshwater to saltwater waterway system from source to sea – one of the few places on Earth with such thriving wildlife and a natural environment based around water. The team will document their journey through daily blogging, daily photos and videos for social media outlets, filming for their own documentary, and filming for Tahoe SUP’s EXPLORE project series.

XF500 was designed by Justin Riney, Founder and CEO of Mother Ocean. Riney recently launched Mother Ocean on January 1, 2012 with the purpose of creating, inspiring, and empowering ocean advocates worldwide. “Our goal with Expedition Florida 500 is to merge our passion for ocean advocacy with an incredible storyline that resonates with the masses. With the help of Quiksilver and Tahoe SUP, our voice and platform will reach a global audience. XF500 is just the beginning – we’re rallying the troops.” Riney will lead the expedition with a project team consisting of Peter Mel of Quiksilver Waterman, Matt Kechele of Quiksilver, Nate Brouwer of Tahoe SUP, and Kristian Gustavson of Below the Surface.

Justin writes:

With three days left until launch, a lot of people have been asking me what I'm feeling. "Are you scared? Nervous? Excited?" What occupies the mind of someone who's traded in their physical possessions, their bank account, their limited time with family and friends, their traditional job, and much spend an entire year of their life on a paddleboard?

My response is always that I'm incredibly excited and grateful for this opportunity. I'm proud to see all of the hard work that's gone into this finally coming to fruition. January 1st marks the one-year anniversary of Mother Ocean, and I'm very satisfied with the progress we've made in that short period of time. We're just getting started, of course, but we've laid a solid foundation for future advocacy.

My biggest fear in life is not facilitating progression or contributing to this world in some way; you'll always hear me promoting leadership from the trenches. I believe my time spent on the water leading Expedition Florida 500 next year will set the stage for inspirational change throughout Florida and hopefully the world. It's much more than paddleboarding for me - that's simply the chosen medium for this particular platform. I want people to see beyond that because this project is so much deeper than sport. Creating something from scratch that inspires change is exciting to me, regardless of the chosen medium, and it's also a responsibility that I take very seriously.

There are many thoughts and feelings swirling throughout my head right now with three days until launch, but we've prepared for this moment and it's time to apply that training. The only fear I'm experiencing is the possibility that we may not be successful in delivering our message. Overall, however, I'm genuinely just excited and thankful for the opportunity to both experience and influence at the same time. I'm excited for the world to see Florida.

Check out the pre-launch party Dec. 31 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Atlas Oyster House, 600 South Barracks St. in downtown Pensacola. A beach cleanup will kick off Expedition Florida 500 at 9 a.m. on Jan. 1 at Big Lagoon State Park, 12301 Gulf Beach Highway in Pensacola.



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