Expedition Florida 500 passes through Walton County

January 11, 2013

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park welcomed Expedition Florida 500. L-R: Park manager Jason Cutshaw, Justin Riney, Tammy Matthews, Fred Provost, Chris
Topsail Hill Preserve State Park welcomed Expedition Florida 500. L-R: Park manager Jason Cutshaw, Justin Riney, Tammy Matthews, Fred Provost, Chris Roberts.

Waterman traveling across Florida brings environmental awareness

East coast Floridian, stand up paddle boarder and founder of environmental group Mother Ocean, Justin Riney is on a mission to bring environmental awareness. Headed across the State of Florida for a 365 day paddle journey – Expedition 500 (XF500) his travels brought him through Walton County Jan. 10-11, 2013.

Justin Riney of Expedition Florida 500 had escorts on a portion of the his Bay paddle from East Hewitt Road to Cessna Landing in Santa Rosa Beach. L-R Justin Riney, Stacey Troy, Leslie Kolovich, Jeff Troy. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance along with Florida Sea Grant Marine Extension gave Riney a tour of the Choctawhatchee Bay, along with sharing his mission with local students and tours of South Walton’s diverse ecosystems. Both Topsail Hill Preserve State Park and Grayton Beach State Park served as hosts to Riney during his overnight stays. Walton businesses, YOLO Board and 30A.com hosted a meet and greet at the Red Bar. In addition, local paddlers Stacey and Jeff Troy along with Leslie Kolovich of the SUP Radio Show paddled with Riney on a section of his travels across the Bay.

About Expedition Florida 500:

On Jan. 1, 2013, Riney and his colleagues launched XF500 in Pensacola, kicking off the 1,515 mile journey on the Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail, hugging the coastline south through the Keys and back north to Jacksonville.

XF500 is sponsored in part by Viva Florida 500, a year-long celebration of Florida’s 500th anniversary of explorer Ponce de Leon landing on Florida’s coastline. Riney and his crew will spend the first half of the year exploring the coastline: chasing hurricane swell in the Atlantic, freediving Spanish shipwrecks, sailing in the Gulf of Mexico, standup paddling the state’s coastline, spearfishing in the Dry Tortugas, and stopping into local beachside communities hosting cleanups. They’ll encourage others to paddle with them, including team riders from sponsors and various celebrity paddlers.

Team XF500 will then turn inland, spending the second half of the journey along the rivers, lakes, estuaries, and marshland – the intricate network that makes up the Florida freshwater ecosystem. They’ll document and explore the waterways much like they did with the coastline. They’ll camp and airboat through the Everglades, canoe the natural springs, film amazing Florida wildlife and scenery, kayak and standup 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 aquatic ecosystem from source to sea – one of the few places on Earth with such a vast array of thriving wildlife and a natural environment based around water. The team will document their journey through daily blogging, photos and videos for social media outlets, filming for their own documentary, and filming for Tahoe SUP’s EXPLORE project series.

To keep track of XF500 and their efforts, follow them on Facebook.