Meet The Paddlers

Captain John Kumiski and Rodney Smith, authors and long-time IRL fishing guides, have teamed up to initiate this adventure to raise IRL awareness and money for an education fund benefitting college interns working on IRL conservation issues, IRL educational programs and student scholarships.

“Our families have prospered greatly from our intimate relationship with the Indian River Lagoon. We want others to share these blessings.” said Smith, a former IRL fishing guide and founder of Coastal Angler Magazine“. Our mission is two-fold: share our love for the IRL with the world, and get away for a three-week paddle and camp out!”


John Kumiski

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irl paddle adventureJohn Kumiski first paddled a canoe on Little Sebago Lake in Maine at the ripe old age of 12. That boat was a beautiful Old Town wood and canvas model. Since then he’s paddled canoes from the Everglades to the Boundary Waters to Maine’s St. John’s River. Now a fishing guide, writer, photographer, and author, he is very much looking forward the the IRL Paddle Adventure!

Rodney Smith

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irl paddle adventureFlorida 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.

Darryl “Bones” Benton

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irl paddle adventureDarryl 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.

Mike “Noodle Knees” Conneen

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irl paddle adventureLiving on or close to the IRL all his life has helped him appreciate the beauty it provides. As a boy, Mike Conneen spent his summer mornings watching the gillnetters and clammers make a living as he casted his fishing pole from his dock. The IRL provided him with the very best playground a boy could ask for and it still does to this day. In 2003, he was in an ATV accident that left him partially paralyzed and was sidetracked from all that the IRL had to offer until 2010, when he purchased his first kayak. Since then he’s been exploring every nook and cranny of the IRL. He truly could not be happier to call Brevard County his home.

Kristen Beck

irl paddle adventureBorn and raised in central Massachusetts Kristen Beck spent lots of time outdoors where she developed an adventurous spirit, love of nature and guiding skills. Kristen spent a lot time camping, fishing and paddling with her family in New England. While exploring the White Mountains, sailing on the lakes and ocean then guiding trips on fast flowing rivers in Maine and photographing whales off of George’s Banks, Kristen was inspired by the magic and beauty found outdoors.Professionally, Kristen began guiding in Maine as a whitewater and wilderness guide where she led multiday trips into Maine’s woods and on Class IV Rivers. She took her training to New Jersey and the Girl Scouts of America where she took on the role of Aquatics Director, developing swimming, paddling and trail programs for a large summer camp and for winter programs.
Kristen met her husband, Mike on a 22 day paddling trip on the Colorado River, through the Grand Canyon. He encouraged her to try out for the USA National Wildwater Team. Kristen competed and trained in the US and in Europe before moving to Florida to guide kayaking tours and teach safety courses. In the fall, you may find Kristen and Mike leading tours in Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyons and other National Parks out west. She is an ACA certified instructor and loves to share her knowledge.

Mike Beck

irl paddle adventureBorn in New York but raised in Cologne, Mike Beck is truly a city boy but also a passionate explorer. He has led thousands of kayaking expeditions where hiking was sometimes a secondary activity and has led hundreds of trekking tours where photography, biking or wildlife watching were secondary. He thinks that a truly memorable journey combines more than one activity in a way that they blend seamlessly. He held a Guinness World Record for distance paddled in 24 hours on a river and met his wife on a 280 mile 22-day river expedition through the Grand Canyon. He has completed as well as organized 100 mile ultra runs.

Nick Colantonio

nickFollowing a tour of duty in the Navy and a 35-year career in chemical engineering, Nick Colantonio retired to pursue redfish, snook and trout on the flats of Tampa Bay. Fish populations are safe. Nick is known as THE Comatose Angler in Florida, Alaska, and Ireland. The moniker was bestowed on him by a fellow member of the Tampa Bay Fly Fishing Club in recognition of his notoriously slow hook set. A guide in Clare County, Ireland commented “Nick, your reaction times are brutal”. Lacking any fast twitch muscle fiber, he will most likely paddle the sweep canoe. He has ridden drag on cattle drives in North Dakota.When not casting and retrieving, Nick devotes his time to the Great Highland Pipes of Scotland and to visiting a hospital and senior center with his registered therapy dog, Sadie.

Mim Duncan

georgeMim 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!

Dee Kaminski

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DK red6Dee Kaminski found her true passion, kayak fishing, when she moved to Melbourne Beach in 2007 from Illinois. Her fresh water fishing roots made it an easy transition into salt water. Fishing almost everyday, she honed her abilities to consistently track fish movements and feeding patterns, but more importantly to keep her fellow anglers on them. Sharing her expertise and abilities with others seemed to be the natural progression in her fishing success story, so Dee started Reel Kayak Fishing Charters and began guiding full time. When not on the water, Dee enjoys writing fishing articles, giving kayak fishing seminars and enjoying the IRL wildlife and ecosystem.

Julie Hanson

Julie_HansonJulie Hanson is a Florida native. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from Rollins College in environmental studies with a minor in sustainable development. She has worked in Florida as an environmental scientist. She has spent two years in AmeriCorps working with the California Department of Fish and Game and the Florida Park Service. She is currently working for the Indian River Land Trust in the stewardship and outreach position.