2014 – Paddler Bios

Mike Conneen

profileClick here to sponsor Mike Conneen
Born and raised on the Indian River Lagoon, Mike jumped at the chance to paddle the entire length last year during the 2013 IRL Paddle Adventure. Mike is an avid kayak angler with partial paralysis from the waist down due to an ATV accident in 2003. This does not slow him down when he wants to get something accomplished. This year Mike plans to catch up with the gang on the second weekend and take it to the end from there. He is excited to spend his days and nights on the water and share stories of 2013 to those that are new for 2014. A 12′.9″ Ocean Kayak Big Game 2 will be what he paddles as he is part of the Johnson Outdoors Team as well as Harry Goode’s Outdoors Fishing Team.

“I gained a whole new respect for this body of water that stretches 156 miles of our coast.” -Mike.

Rodney Smith

rodneysClick here to sponsor Rodney SmithFlorida native Rodney Smith has been a fishing guide and magazine publisher and is currently an author, writer, photographer, philosopher, and Director of Anglers for Conservation. The multi-talented Smith is always trying to live right and expand his circle of influence.



Nick Colantonio

nickcAfter service in the Navy and a 35-year chemical engineering career, Nick Colantonio retired to pursue redfish, snook and trout on Tampa Bay. Fish populations are safe. His notoriously slow hook set has earned him the moniker The Comatose Angler — in Florida, Alaska, and Ireland.

He is a member of the core group of five through-paddlers who travelled the entire Indian River system from New Smyrna Beach to Jupiter in 2013. In the photo above, members of the core group raised their glasses to all who joined in the adventure – to 35 paddlers who participated in various stages of the journey and to the many generous hosts, helpers and contributors who supported the paddlers’ efforts.

“Experiencing the beauty of the Indian River in 2013 was exhilarating. Learning about the many threats to the estuary’s viability was saddening, but I am encouraged by the many professionals and volunteers who are working to reverse the damage.

An effort was begun in 2014 to get everyone concerned about the health of the lagoon to speak with one voice. Keep at it. That spirit of cooperation brought my home waters of Tampa Bay back from the dead.”

Jack Blasy

Jack_BlasyClick here to sponsor Jack Blasy
Born and raised in Michigan, Jack was always involved in outdoor activities. While still in high school and on a trip with a buddy, relaxing after running some small rapids, they heard a long slow rip; and as their canvas-bottomed kayak slowly sank, they swam to shore. They hiked along the river until almost midnight before they came to a road and were able to hitch a ride back to their car.

While living in California, Jack was an Assistant Scout Master of a high adventure Boy Scout Troop, where he taught his two sons and several other boys white water kayaking, including how to do the Eskimo roll.

Since moving to Florida in 2005 he has become a frequent kayak fisherman all up and down the IRL and enjoys occasional kayak trips on Florida’s beautiful rivers. Today he lives on the shore of the Indian River Lagoon in Indialantic with his wife Andrea, and often sets out from his dock for a paddle, pedal or sail on his Hobie kayak.

“I never take the view or the other many attributes of the IRL for granted,” says Jack.

Steve R. Durso

steve dursoI grew up on Merritt Island and as a kid, spent most of my free time fishing and crabbing in the Indian River Lagoon. I remember the days of endless supplies of blue crab, mullet, sailor’s choice, giant sea trout and oysters. In fact, there was so much fish in the IRL, that you could pull a treble hook and catch a limit of fish back in the late sixties through mid seventies. Those early years fishing and enjoying the fruits of the IRL had a profound imprint on how important our waterways and environment are to me. Our family enjoys kayaking very much and we’ve taken many people out on eco tours. Having the ability to give back, bring awareness and serve our community to help foster our next generation of fishing and environmental stewards is a dream come true. I currently volunteer with several environmental groups, including Anglers for Conservation and the IRLPA.

Darryl “Bones” Benton

bonesDarryl Benton moved to Rockledge Florida on the banks of the Indian River Lagoon in 1964. He has fished and paddled the lagoon since he was 13 years old. Now retired from building airports, museums, and theme parks around the country and the globe, Darryl works as a Volunteer Kayak Guide at Brevard Zoo and enjoys every day he can be on the water. His favorite thing to do is take someone kayaking for the first time on the Indian River.


Mim Duncan

mimClick here to sponsor Mim DuncanMim Duncan was an indoor person until age 25 when her late husband introduced her to Colorado and the outdoors through backpacking and skiing. She moved to Florida full time in 2004 because of the beaches. Instead, she discovered kayaking and Florida’s amazing rivers. She is an endurance kayaker who gets energized by long distance trips.
Her career encompassed elementary education and middle school counseling in Denver, CO and working as a mental health therapist in Page, AZ.

Although she is in awe of the beauty of the rivers, she is disappointed to see the trash left on the islands and the roadsides. Florida has so much to offer. Let’s clean it up!