Get ready for the paddle festival at Hammocks Beach (There be dragons)

When did folks in North Carolina start paddling? Not counting the dog paddle, it was at least several thousand years ago. We’re still finding the huge dugout canoes crafted by American Indians of pre-Columbian days at Pettigrew State Park and other eastern North Carolina sites.

The 2013 Crystal Coast Paddle Festival will include some kayak tours of Hammocks Beach State Park .
The 2013 Crystal Coast Paddle Festival will include some kayak tours of Hammocks Beach State Park .

With a nod to those ancient paddlers, North Carolina will celebrate its proud history of paddling and its stunning coastal environment with the first-ever 2013 Crystal Coast Paddle Festival at Hammocks Beach State Park near Swansboro. There’s something for everybody here. A Pirate Paddle scavenger hunt, the 2013 Mullet Cup paddling race and dragon boat races will be interwoven with paddle tours of the state park, kayak and paddleboard demonstrations by vendors. There’ll be plenty of children’s activities including the building and decorating of paddling craft.  There will be environmental education opportunities and displays about paddling, ranging from the dugout canoes to state-of-the-art paddleboards and sea kayaks.

Proceeds of the festival will benefit co-sponsors including principal sponsors Friends of the Hammocks and Bear Island, the Swansboro Area Development Foundation, VisitSwansboro and the White Oak-New Riverkeeper Alliance.

“The exploration of nature through canoeing and kayaking has always been an exciting part of the state park experience in North Carolina, and our visitors are always finding new ways of enjoying the state parks through paddling sports,” said Lewis Ledford, state parks director. “We want to encourage this healthful family activity in any way possible, and Hammocks Beach is a perfect venue with its pristine coastal environment.”

The Pirate Paddle scavenger hunt Sept. 7 is a one-mile linear race with paddlers challenged to find required items along the way. The Mullet Cup has been a Swansboro tradition for some years and will be incorporated into the festival on Sept. 8 with a 3K, timed course through marsh waters. Competitors may use any single-seat kayak or surf ski. And, any group can form a team and compete in dragon boat races on Sept. 8. You don’t even have to know what a dragon boat is. A vendor will provide the watercraft, equipment, a coach and a chance to practice. Complete information about the festival and online registration may be found here.

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