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Defending champion Ervins edge Jenks in race finale

By J. Scott Butherus of the Naples Daily News

One last splash. One last spill. One last toast to one last dance.

The Great Dock Canoe Race ended in much the same way it began four decades ago — with tired arms and muddy shoes, sunburned spectators and plenty of beer.

“It hasn’t changed any over the years,” said Pete Jenks, who has raced in every event since the first one in 1977.

And like that very first race, it was Jenks who crossed the finish line first, this time with son Casey as his teammate, after jumping out to an early lead in the first turn onto the Gordon River.

But because of the two-minute handicap given to teams with a female paddler, it was the father-daughter tandem of Bill and Adriene Ervin who ended up as the overall champions in the “Practically Professionals” division with an official time of 18:48 during Saturday’s disco-themed races at Crayton Cove.

“I had a good partner,” Bill said. “We practiced a lot for this one, working on our turns. It was a lot of fun out there.”

“We came out and pulled our hardest,” Adriene said. “It was our relentless will to not give up.”

It was the second straight title for the Ervins, who also topped Jenks in last year’s race thanks to the female paddler handicap.

“We paddled a good race,” Pete Jenks said. “We were strong all the way through and Casey looked good up front. We did all we could. We couldn’t have gone any faster and we trained pretty hard for this one.”

Despite crossing the finish line nearly 20 boat lengths ahead of the second-best finisher, Anthony Zientek and Caleb Wilborn were bested by Betsy Rees and Brian Connor’s official time of 23:39 in the “Ambitious Amateurs” division. Stan Chrzonowski and Dennis Vasey took first place in the “Truly Tenacious” division for racers over 65. Luke and Grant Forbis won the “Next Generation” youth division with a time of 26:42.

In the VIP race, which featured local business leaders and elected officials, Shanna Olsovsky and Kenny Main of Lutgert Insurance took first place for a second consecutive year after race front-runner Team Arthrex capsized its canoe during the home stretch of the race.

Mike Gill and Jorge Sanchez won the themed race with their giant floating disco ball. Lily and David Poorman were presented the Joe Klimas Memorial “Keep on Paddling” award for sportsmanship.

After it was announced that the 40th edition of the race would be its final one, it was only fitting that two of its longest-tenured competitors paddled it out in the day’s marquee event for one last time. Bill Ervin, a Naples native, has participated in “30-something” races as a paddler. Pete Jenks has been a part of every race since its inception and holds the all-time record for most wins with nine.

“Just lining up at the starting line and getting piqued, I won’t have that to look forward to anymore,” said Pete, who despite having over a dozen different partners through the decades, had never finished lower than third place.

Although the crowds along the Naples Dock were smaller than years past, approximately 1,000 people lined up along the pier, in The Dock Restaurant, which has hosted the event every year since the beginning, and the Tiki Bar at Cove Inn.

“I’m going to be sad to see it go,” said Bill, as he double-fisted two cans of Budweiser after his race. “It’s a good day for everyone to get out, enjoy a day on the water and have fun …

“It’s still legal to have fun. It’ll be sorely missed.”


About J. Scott Butherus

Multimedia journalist J. Scott Butherus is an award-winning sports writer and videographer and slightly above-mediocre photographer who covers spring training for the Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox, the Fort Myers Miracle, outdoors and fishing, PrepZone, and Florida Gulf Coast University. In his spare time, he wrestles sharks and is a career .827 hitter for the company softball team.

Written By

Avi Adkins is a seasoned journalist with a passion for storytelling and a keen eye for detail. With years of experience in the field, Adkins has established himself as a respected figure in journalism.

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