The Paddler’s Club Dock is one of the first things you see when you cruise onto Callawassie Island across the famed quarter mile causeway. Almost a “scenic picture spot,” the pier, kayak launch, and all the bright colorful kayaks on their racks set the tone for a way of life – tranquil, lush, and peaceful. It’s something you want to be a part of.
Like many Callawassie community clubs, “being a part of it” is perhaps the primary point. Meeting people, making connections, building relationships, and forging memories were all part of the original motivation for launching the club says co-founder John Pagkos. In a setting where the waterways are your neighborhood, your passion, and your constant companion, the best way to appreciate them are with a group of like-minded paddlers, most often on the water.
Making it as easy as possible, are Deborah Dykes, and Ed and Christine Reck, Ambassadors who connect guests to island life through golf games, dinners, and even rounds of tennis. “You don’t have to do it all but once you’re here, you want to do it all and one of our favorites,” says Christine, “is taking people out kayaking. It really emphasizes the uniqueness of Callawassie Island.” Members say with emphasis and regularity, “It’s easier than most would think.” Gentle waterways lend themselves to open water kayaking or weaving in and out of salt marsh pathways, exploring hidden gems near the island and regional wildlife habits and habitats, breath-taken with the sprawling, refreshing views.
You don’t even need your own equipment. “We have loaners, or you can rent from tour groups on outings facilitated by guides and kayaking outfitters,” Deborah explains, with Christine adding, “Just grab a paddle, a vest for safety, and the hand that everyone lends for getting in and out.” That last part isn’t always pretty, everyone agrees with a good laugh, but it’s pretty simple, thanks to everyone there to assist, and to the island’s “dry dock” launches that allow you to pull in and out to level wood docks without stepping into the water. Ed summarizes beautifully, suggesting all you really need is “the friends you’ll make instantly.”
Turning the page to what you see after you launch, you begin to write your own personal nature handbook of experiences, filled with island wildlife, natural resources, and steeped in a revered Lowcountry landscape. You see the shrimpers casting nets, dolphins alone or in pods, silver fish breeching the surface, and according to eyewitnesses, the occasionally swimming deer. Birds, of course, deserve a whole chapter unto themselves. Great for birders, photographers, and simply nature lovers, the paddle-out gives you a front row seat to all facets of fine feathered friends. Nesting, hunting, feeding, the local species put on a spectacular display for spectators. Usual suspects like herons, cranes, osprey, eagles, and osprey, are complemented by more unique sightings such as the painted bunting, which Ed describes as “the most spectacular bird you’ll ever see – and there are a lot on the island.”
The oddest scene in paddle club memory is admittedly something which those who were there agree they wouldn’t have believed if they hadn’t seen it themselves: A dolphin chest bump? Legend has it, a couple of our marine-life “members” entertained Callawassie kayakers with a short bit of choreography before surfacing in a full-on chest bump and exiting lagoon-left.
Far from one-note, the paddlers club arranges an assortment of activities. Deborah describes a variety of opportunities, from educational to relational, but all inspiring: Impromptu paddle-outs with friends. Night kayaks where you discover a whole different “shift” in setting and environment. Organized Trips & Tours with specialists and naturalists to destination sites like Hunting Island, Black Water Cypress Swamps where you can see or photograph the phenomenal spider lilies, and the highly educational ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge. The benefits roll onto land, stopping for lunch together on trips, holiday parties, annual parties and events like the paddle around the island which, John Pagkos estimates as “roughly a 7 ¼ mile trip.” John Pagkos and all members encourage together, “Everyone is welcome” as experience levels range from instructor to “never paddled before.”
Most of all, because we live on Callawassie Island in beautiful Beaufort County South Carolina, the opportunities to put your boat in the water with friends never stop. “Thanks to our Lowcountry climate, you can kayak year-round, and it’s especially pretty in the winter. The green grasses turn golden, and from early morning to the evening at sunset, it’s especially beautiful and peaceful to kayak through them,” Ed exults. “Every time of year is a different experience. It’s gorgeous when you’re out there even in early January, where it’s still 50 or 60 degrees here often, you can get out and kayak a couple hours depending on the tide.” Christine adds, “you learn something new every time you go out on the water,” with Deborah finishing, “It’s a beautiful, tranquil opportunity.”
All this, and you haven’t left home.
It’s great to see the magnificence of Callawassie from the unique view of being on the water looking back at the land. It gets you in touch with your surroundings and enables you to experience the bigger picture – the essence of Callawassie, which you can only fully observe from a water-bound vantage point since, as Ed remarks with great appreciation, “it is an island, after all.”
Learn more about the clubs and events at Callawassie Island here!