The midcoast has got paddle sports enthusiasm going on.

Nine years ago a retired Ohio schoolteacher started group paddles around the Pemaquid peninsula.

Two years later the founder of the fabled Rubber Ducky Race in Maine got the same thing going with weekend kayak trips for the Pemaquid Watershed Association.

This summer the two groups are poised to grow.

Both the paddles offered by the loosely formed Pemaquid Paddlers and those led by the Pemaquid Watershed Association are free and open to the public, and roughly two hours long.

If competition breeds interest, expect more paddlers to take to the water in the midcoast.

Last year John Will took a break from Pemaquid Paddlers outings, which he started in 2003, but now he’s back and with a website.

“It’s still run every Tuesday, but it’s not that formal. Though we have a blogsite, that’s new this year. I thought it would be easier,” Will said.

Will’s intentions are not to inspire good health or share an appreciation for the watershed. His goals are simple.

“I like to paddle,” he said.

Be that as it may, he’s known to draw 30 or more paddlers to his trips.

Everyone must bring their own craft, youth 18 years or younger must have an adult; and every paddler needs to sign a waiver.

“I figure if they bring their own kayak and equipment, they can’t blame me,” Will said.

For six years, the watershed association and Will collaborated: Will did paddles during the week and Peter Lawrence led the weekend trips.

But Will went his own way — and one result was the association spread its trips out, with some on Thursday and Friday as well as Saturday.

“This year we have five freshwater and 13 saltwater trips. We go within about an hour of Damariscotta to Lake St. George, Friendship,” Lawrence said.

Like Will, Lawrence is a water sport enthusiast, and happy to do the unconventional.

He started the Rubber Ducky Race in Damariscotta as a fundraiser for the association. Other venues, such as Knoxville, Tenn., boast upwards of 50,000 ducks in similar races, while Maine’s has just shy of 500. But Lawrence said it creates a spectacle through Damariscotta nonetheless.

And the association’s summer paddle schedule has grown to 14 trips, many to well beyond the watershed.

Lawrence takes paddlers as far as the Woolwich marsh, Megunticook Lake in Camden, the St. George River in Thomaston, and beyond.

The association repeats many trips from past summers, but Lawrence said he tries to come up with many new trips, too.

Donna Minnis, the Pemaquid association’s executive director, said the organized paddles foster an appreciation of the watershed, which is the association’s mission.

But Lawrence said the effort does more.

“You go out and smell the roses. You get good exercise, and you see an area you haven’t seen before,” Lawrence said.

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

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Twitter: Flemingpph