Last Fourth of July, Colleen Guido, founder of the Blue Moon Outdoor Center at Oleta River State Park, huddled with 10 other kayakers and stared at the night sky.
“It was so amazing to see Miami and South Florida just shoot up fireworks in four different areas. It’s one of those nights where you don’t even have time to capture it on your video camera — you just want to sit back and enjoy life,” she said.
On Friday, the Fourth of July, Guido will again join her staff and park visitors on a kayak or paddleboard to witness the Independence Day fireworks.
It costs $49.99 to attend the Fireworks Paddle Tour and Bonfire Party, which covers the rental of a kayak or paddleboard, the safety equipment and the bonfire party on a private beach in the park.
“This event is really special because it’s at nighttime. It’s definitely an adventure,” said Faye Stratford, a crew member for the center. “You have to risk falling into the water, so people have to be accepting and open-minded.”
Participants have the option of riding alone in a single kayak, riding with a friend in a tandem kayak or riding the surf on a paddleboard.
Annially Estrada, who went kayaking in March, is interested in attending the event.
“It’d be awesome to go because it’s at night,” she said. “It’d be peaceful and romantic.”
Guests should arrive at 6:30 p.m. for check-in and a tailgate party; they will paddle away by 7:30 p.m.
They will paddle for about an hour before stopping in the park’s bay to watch the fireworks. Then, they will paddle to a private beach for a bonfire party with a table of s’mores — and drinks and snacks they brought on their own.
First-time kayakers and paddle boarders should not be afraid to participate, Guido said.
“We have all the safety measures in place. We have our guides that are professionally trained, [and] you’ll be wearing a personal flotation device at all times,” said Guido, who has been with the Blue Moon Outdoor Center since it was established in 2005.
Because the event is taking place after sunset, guests are asked to wear a headlight or to take advantage of the glow stick attached at the end of the kayaks.
“We do put high-intense LED lights [on the paddleboards], so they can also take those out, which illuminates the water and attracts the little fish, such as shrimp,” she said.
The outdoor center has a plan in case the weather doesn’t cooperate.
“If it’s raining or lightning in this area, we do a rain delay of up to 45 minutes,” said Guido. If the bad weather does not dissipate, the trip will be canceled, and participants will be refunded or credited for another tour.
In addition to bringing a change of clothes in case it rains — or if a kayak flips over — Guido and her staff recommend bringing a towel, sandals or beach shoes, a mosquito-repellent spray for when participants paddle past the mangroves at the beginning and end of the journey, and a small cooler for snacks or drinks.
About 100 spots are available, and Guido suggests registering in advance online or by phone.
“If you have a little ounce of adventurism in you and you want to tap into that, this is a great way of starting because, when you’re done attacking that fear, you’re going to feel so amazed afterward,” said Guido.