KEY WEST, Florida Keys -- Paddleboard enthusiasts can join Special Olympics athletes from around the United States Friday through Sunday, Oct. 12-14, for competition and camaraderie during the seventh annual Stand Up Paddle Invitational in Key West.
More than 100 Special Olympians are expected to strive for personal best in the fully inclusive paddleboard races, beach run obstacle course and other challenges.
Presented by Special Olympics Florida-Monroe County, the event is designed to appeal to paddlers of all ability levels as well as nonpaddlers seeking island-style family fun. Started in 2012, it helped Special Olympics Florida launch stand-up paddling as a sanctioned sport.
The weekend's activities are to begin at 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12, with an athlete's reception at The Salty Angler, 1114 Duval St. Participants can pick up their race packets, enjoy a taco bar and mingle with the Special Olympics paddlers.
Saturday's highlights include the 4:30 p.m. Parade of Athletes starting at La Te Da, 1125 Duval St. Athletes are to march their official torch, called the Flame of Hope up Duval Street escorted by law enforcement Guardians of the Flame. Spectators are invited to observe and applaud marchers as they proceed to the Southernmost Beach Resort where Duval Street meets the Atlantic Ocean.
A welcome party with appetizers, dancing and opening ceremonies awaits race participants and their guests at the resort.
The main race day is Sunday, Oct. 14, with events scheduled from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Key West's Smathers Beach, fronting on the Atlantic Ocean beside South Roosevelt Boulevard. Athletes can enjoy adapted races for Special Olympians, unified relays and an open paddleboard race with a beach run obstacle course designed by race director Sue Cooper.
Special Olympics Florida-Monroe County offers year-round sports training, competition and health services at no cost to Florida Keys children and adults with intellectual disabilities.