About the Great Dock Canoe Race
It was in the spring of 1977 that a new restaurant, The Dock at Crayton Cove, decided to throw an end-of-season party to celebrate its first year. Because of its waterfront setting, a canoe race seemed a natural. Twenty-five contestants and about 150 spectators participated in that first race. No one realized they had witnessed the birth of a tradition.
Today, the annual Great Dock Canoe Race is arguably Naples's most popular event. Contestants and spectators travel from throughout the country to race and watch, and thousands of people, from young children to grandparents, celebrate the race on land, dock and bay.
The theme for the event changes each year, and the costumes and headgear of the participants and spectators are as much a part of the day as the paddling and puffing.
Some canoeists are just out there for the fun of it, and upside down canoes at the starting line are not uncommon. Still, there are serious contestants who begin training early for the race, which covers just over 3 miles on Naples Bay. Next Generation racers (12-17 year olds teamed with their parent/guardian) have also been ‘raising the bar’ since 2000.
In 2003, organizers decided to create The theme parade. This Parade is a wonderful way for contestants for the “Best Dressed Canoe” (most creative interpretation of each year’s chosen theme) to showcase their creations to spectators and judges alike.
In 2004, after 27 years without a change in race format, the 28th Annual 2004 Great Dock Canoe Race saw something quite different & new! For the first time, contestants in all categories (M/M, M/F, F/F) who were out to compete just for the fun of it – the “Ambitious Amateurs” - raced at 12.45pm. Those who take their canoeing skills a little more seriously (teams in all categories – M/M, M/F, F/F) chose to enter in the “Practically Professionals” race at 1.45pm. Adjusted time handicaps determined the winners of each race, and the winner of the “Practically Professionals” race at 1.45pm was judged to be the Overall Winner.
In 2012, an additional category - "Truly Tenacious" - was added for teams with both canoeists 65 or over; and in 2013 the "Joe Klimas Keep On Paddling Award" for family sportsmanship was created to honor the late Joe Klimas (our co-Emcee for the first 36 years of the Great Dock Canoe Race).
In 2016, the original organizers of the Great Dock Canoe Race announce that it would be their "Last Dance" and that they would discontinue the race. However, the beloved canoe race will continue after all thanks to the Naples Junior Chamber (Jaycees) stepping forward to run the event.
The Naples Jaycees, the local chapter of Junior Chamber International, have served the Naples community for over fifty years. Historically known for their haunted houses, involvement with the Fourth of July fireworks, and influence in moving the county seat from Everglades City to Naples, the Naples Jaycees reorganized under new leadership in 2014. Today, the Naples Jaycees are a thriving young professional organization known for providing young, active citizens with opportunities for networking, community service, and professional and personal development. Jaycees members are known for their community involvement, both through the Naples Jaycees and in their individual capacities.
The Great Dock Canoe Race was created as a celebration for friends and locals that signified that season was over and summer was coming. It was designed to support the community and create a fun experience for participants and onlookers alike. Thanks to another like-minded group in the Jaycees, the tradition will continue in perpetuity.