Paddleboarder set for yearlong journey

Paddle Board

Panama City Beach resident Gabriel Gray, left, and Justin Riney of Vero Beach paddle through the Florida Keys during a conservation paddle in September.

Courtesy Robert Sullivan | Special to The News Herald
Published: Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 03:39 PM.

PANAMA CITY BEACH — Justin Riney will be putting a lot of miles on his paddleboard next year.

On New Year’s Day, Riney will embark on a yearlong tour of Florida’s waterways, paddling the entire perimeter of the state’s coastline and down its major interior waterways, to raise awareness to the importance of conservation.

The journey, dubbed Expedition Florida 500, will be completed in conjunction with the 500th anniversary of Ponce de Leon’s arrival on Florida’s beaches.

“I hope, with the year’s worth of paddling, we can raise a mass amount of awareness so people can learn to respect and appreciate these waterways,” said Riney, of Vero Beach. “We want to make sure these waterways are here 500 years from now.”

Expedition Florida 500 will kick off in Pensacola, where Riney and his accompanying paddlers will host a beach cleanup before launching into the water at Big Lagoon State Park.

Riney is set to paddle through Panama City Beach on Jan. 15 and 16, with a number of cleanups and events planned upon his arrival.

“I’m going to be doing the full 365 days, but everyone else will be kind of flowing in around me,” Riney said. “We really want everyone to come out and experience this with us — come out and do paddles with us, come out and do cleanups.”

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