10000 Gandy Blvd. North, Saint Petersburg, FL 33702 * (727) 570-4844 * Email us at TheShop@SweetwaterKayaks.com

About Us

For the Sweetwater team paddling is more than an activity, it is a lifestyle. Since 1992, we have brought our love of water sports to our customers through Sweetwater Kayaks. From rentals to lessons and expeditions, we think that time is best spent on the water. We love everything from getting beginners on the water to helping seasoned paddlers fine tune their skills. Kayaking has allowed us to discover new places, have unforgettable experiences, and make lasting friendships and we want to share that with you!

Read about the Sweetwater staff below:

Russell Farrow

BCU 4 Star Award/Sea Kayak
BCU Level 3 Coach/Sea Kayak
BCU Three Star Award Canoe
ACA L4 Sea Kayak
TSRA Certified Solo Open Boat
Wilderness First Responder
Professional player of stringed instruments

As president of Sweetwater Kayaks, Russell’s extensive sea kayak expedition experience makes him a great source of paddling knowledge. Paddling has brought Russell all over the United States as well as the globe. Most notably, he organized the Labrador 2005 Expedition where he paddled Labrador’s northeast coast which is thought to be one of the most inhospitable and challenging coastlines in the world. He has also paddled across the Baltic Sea, and done an expedition in the high arctic at Baffin Island. In addition to his paddling, Russell is an accomplished musician who has appeared on Saturday Night Live and is currently the guitarist for the band Sisemore. He is an excellent source of local Florida knowledge, creative facial hair, and travel stories.

Steve Farrow


ACA Level 1 Introduction to Kayaking Instructor
BCU 1 Star Award
First Aid /CPR

In his 30 years as an airline professional, Steve has traveled the world in search of the ideal outdoor experience. After retiring, he joined Sweetwater Kayaks and now manages the shop where he provides every customer with great knowledge of the Saint Petersburg and Tampa area. Steve is both a trained kayaker and paddleboarder which makes his first hand knowledge of products in the shop very valuable.

Brandon Hietpas

ACA Level 3 Coastal Kayak Instructor
Coastal Kayaking Day Trip Leader
BCU 3 Star Sea Kayak Skills
BCU 2 Star Canoe Skills
BCU Level One Coach
CPR & First Aid Certified
Cultivator of extensive facial hair

Brandon is the type of person who loves anything that involves the water. He is a scuba diver, free diver, kayak fisherman, and all around paddle sports enthusiast. He started kayaking off the coast of Washington state in his sit-on-top fishing kayak in a variety of conditions, and then eventually headed south to Florida where he was introduced to sea kayaking. Since that time, paddling has brought him all over the east coast and his skills have been improving at an impressive rate. He is also our kayak and board repairman, so if you end up with something that needs fixing, he’s the man to talk to. His experience in outdoor activities such as backpacking, climbing, and skiing make him a well rounded paddling instructor.

Emily McNear


ACA Level 3 Coastal Kayak Instructor
Coastal Kayaking Day Trip Leader
ACA Level 2 SUP Instructor
BCU Level One Coach

BCU 3 Star Sea Kayak SKills
BCU 2 Star Canoe SKills
CPR and First Aid Certified
Sushi Addict


Emily started in the outdoor industry as a rock climber, which brought her all over the country seeking climbing and backpacking adventures. After taking a NOLS Outdoor Educator course in Alaska, she fell in love with sea kayaking while paddling the Prince William Sound. From there she found work in Washington’s San Juan Islands leading tours and training as a kayak guide, then found wintertime paddling opportunities in the Florida Keys.

Chad Maynard


ACA Level 3 Coastal Kayak Instructor
BCU UKCC Level 2 Coach
ACA SUP Level 1 – SUP Instructor
BCU Three Star Award/Sea Kayak
BCU Three Star Award/Canoe
Coastal Navigation & Tidal Planning
Wilderness Advanced First Aid (WAFA)
CPR Certified

Prior to plunging into the sport of kayaking in 2005, he spent years racing sailboats and fishing from canoes the lakes and rivers of Northern Ohio. He took his love of water with him as he headed off to college in Southeast Ohio where he majored in computer science and minored in mathematics. He has continued his formal education by receiving an MBA from the Unversity of Phoenix in Tampa. So when doesn’t have his nose in a textbook or is not on the water paddling, the most likely place to find Chad is coaching kayaking, canoeing, or standup paddleboard (SUP) courses offered through the shop or renting kayaks at Weedon Island Preserve. In addition to his participation in kayaking and other water sports he has a full time career in the information technology (IT) field. He loves all types of music, bowling, cooking, rollerblading, weight lifting, Texas hold’em, and is an avid golf duffer. FORE!!!!

Wayne Douchkoff



ACA Level 2 Kayak Instructor
ACA Certified Trip Leader
BCU 2 Star Award Canoe/Kayak
BCU Level One Coach Paddlesports
Wilderness First Aid/CPR
Florida Advanced Master Naturalist, U of FL
Florida Master Naturalist Program Instructor
Certified Interpretive Guide, National Association for Interpretation
Lifelong Learner

Wayne’s passion is the outdoors, whether exploring, learning or teaching others. 10 years into his 3rd career, he still makes time to volunteer in the Tampa Bay Area as an educator, naturalist, citizen scientist and all around sage (meaning ‘wise’ or ‘wise guy’, depending on your perspective).Photography, skydiving and eating makes Wayne an all (a)round guy.





Partnerships and Contacts



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