By Angela Higginbotham
Former United States Marine Esteban Blyar finished the journey of a lifetime when he pulled his kayak ashore in mid-May after completing a 61-day kayaking trip around the coast of Florida on what is called the Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail. The trail is a total of 1,515 miles long.
Blyar was born in Buford, S.C. into a military family and is a 2013 graduate of Atlantic Coast High School. Not long after graduation, he followed in his father David’s footsteps and joined the Marine Corps. Esteban Blyar served for four years. The Marine Corps seemed an obvious choice for Blyar because it was familiar to him; he grew up living overseas for 10 of his first 15 years in Japan, Czech Republic and Honduras before his dad retired back to the United States. It was in Okinawa, Japan where he discovered a passion for outdoors — snorkeling, hiking and kayaking. Blyar will begin training with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) in November.
Averaging 20 – 30 miles per day, Blyar started the circumnavigational trail near the Alabama/Florida line and paddled the coast on his 17-foot sea kayak. He completed the challenge at Fort Clinch State Park. Blyar used his adventure for a great cause: he set up a fundraiser for the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and raised donations through Facebook. A donation of $3,380 was made to the society after Blyar’s completion of the trail. Blyar said he supports the society because he received emergency travel assistance from the society while on active duty. Also, his father currently works for the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society Jacksonville.
Weather was favorable for the majority of Byar’s traveling.
“The saltwater marsh in the Panhandle was probably the biggest challenge. There’s no dry land for at least nine miles,” Blyar said. “If anything happens at that point, it’s easy to get pushed up into the marsh. I walked about a mile in the marsh. I did also have to camp out for over a day because of wind. It rained all day one day and it got into the 30s some nights, so that was uncomfortable.”
Blyar kept a week’s worth of food and supplies on hand at a time. His father, and periodically his mom and wife, would meet him along the way to replenish supplies. Blyar would then shower in the hotel where his family was staying at the time. After a long day of paddling, he usually set up camp around 4 p.m. and then would spend his time stretching or swimming.
“I enjoyed doing this,” he said. “The Everglades and Keys were probably my favorite, but I really enjoyed the wildlife everywhere.”
Blyar plans to continue his kayaking adventures in the future. After he gains more experience, he hopes to navigate some of Europe and the Amazon. He has several kayaks for different purposes and is looking forward to more challenges.
Photo courtesy David Blyar