Festival at Hammocks Beach State Park makes a splash

The Mullet Cup has been a kayak race tradition in Swansboro.
The Mullet Cup has been a kayak race tradition in Swansboro.

At the first-ever paddle festival at Hammocks Beach State Park, you could learn to race a kayak, maneuver a paddleboard, build a toy boat from recycled stuff, dig a dugout canoe…or paddle to a different drummer.

Visitors had a chance to test out kayaks and paddleboards.
Visitors had a chance to test kayaks and paddleboards.

Paddlers and paddles of all shapes and sizes converged in the marshes surrounding the state park with organizers estimating a crowd of about 2,000 visiting the two-day event. It was held to celebrate the growing sport in coastal North Carolina and as a

fundraiser for the park’s friends group, the Swansboro Area Development Foundation and the White Oak-New Riverkeeper Alliance.

The festival revolved around vendors who offered demos of kayaks and paddleboards, displays of paddlecraft and a series of races. A one-mile Pirate Paddle scavenger hunt was a fun exercise on opening day, while Swansboro’s traditional 3K Mullet Cup race brought out the serious kayakers with swifter boats. Six teams signed up for spectator-friendly dragon boat races – head-to-head sprints between long, slim craft powered by paddlers. A drummer sitting in the bow attempted to keep everybody’s strokes in time.

Dragon boat races pitted teams in head-to-head competition.
Dragon boat races pitted teams in head-to-head competition.

Rangers from Kerr Lake State Recreation Area and Pettigrew State Park brought American Indian-style dugout canoes launched as interpretive projects, reflecting the centuries-old history of North Carolina coastal paddling. Those displays were augmented by kids’ activities including painting a kayak and building and floating toy boats.

Youngsters built toy boats from recycled materials.
Youngsters built toy boats from recycled materials.

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