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Kayaking kept her 'sane' during the pandemic. The result is cleaner Tampa Bay waterways

Tien Ryan took up kayaking after her rowing groups were cancelled due to COVID. Now, she's hooked.

TAMPA, Fla. — Tien Ryan had really begun to love rowing. Then, her hobby was taken away. The COVID-19 pandemic forced her rowing groups to pause.

So, she bought a kayak.

“This actually helped me so much I really feel like this was like my sanity,” she said from her kayak Tuesday morning just a short float away from Armature Works downtown. “When you’re out here there’s like not a lot of people out.”

The pandemic has forced many people to find new forms of entertainment. Ryan took up kayaking and has found “peace” on the water. She routinely gets out on the water in downtown Tampa to see the sunrise and posts photos on her Facebook page surrounded by tall buildings.

What started as safe exercise grew into a connection through conversation with other people crazy for kayaks.

“I would just invite somebody and then I just started to create deeper friendships that way,” she said.

Those kayakers started to gather on the third Sunday of every month for Paddle With Purpose events.

The open Facebook invite has drawn up to 15 people during the outings which include meditation and water cleanup.

The idea first began with Ryan’s pastor.

“There was no way to interact. I’m a relatively social person so there was no way for me to just get out,” she said. “I wanted to help our waterways because when you go out you see trash and it’s really frustrating.”

She fills her kayak with trash found in the water. So much, she’s never kept track of the weight. The events have become important to Ryan, who hopes they continue long after COVID.

“We can still talk and be very far apart and we’ve got the air the sun and the breeze,” she said.

The next Paddle With Purpose event is Feb. 21.

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