Paddle Talks: Meet Suzanne Blackburn


How long have you been a guide? With Portland Paddle?

Suzanne rescues a Portland Paddle staffer during a staff rescue training session. 

Suzanne rescues a Portland Paddle staffer during a staff rescue training session. 

I took the guide training with Maine Sport and passed the test in 1996. At that time the sea kayaking license and the recreational license were one. I actually had to answer questions about snowmobiling so apparently I am licensed to guide snowmobile trips. I wouldn't recommend myself though. I've never been on one. I've guided with Portland Paddle for four seasons, since 2014.  I've worked for several other companies and Portland Paddle is a great place to be.


I've been kayaking since 1980 so that is definitely my strong suit. I started out with a passion for white water and transitioned to sea kayaking in 2002. Sea kayaking challenges me in a whole different way. Sea kayaking demands a tremendous amount of knowledge about the elements, about navigation and an awareness of other boat traffic. I just recently starting paddling stand up paddle boards and for so many reasons I love it!  It's a whole new challenge. It's such a great workout and it's definitely improved my balance.  I took an ACA (American Canoe Association) SUP training so that I can teach effectively.  I'm really excited to do more of that in 2018.

Why guide? 

In 1996 I was going through some really big life changes. I was newly divorced. My ex husband and I had been beekeepers so I lost that source of income in the process. I needed some income and I was ready for a new focus. I'm not a person who can stand being inside very much so I took one of the things I loved, kayaking, and turned it into a vocation. I found out that I loved guiding. Working with people on the water and seeing the delight they experience on the water makes me feel very good. I've never tired of it. 


Favorite Portland Paddle guiding experience? 

After so many years of guiding I have a lot of really great experiences and a lot of miserable experiences. There are days when I can't believe I get paid to do this work (and days when I simply can't believe I subject myself to this work). Last season I led a group of eight people on a three day/two night camping trip in Muscongus Bay. It was a big undertaking. That's a lot of people to guide, care for and cook for but it was a really great group of people and I organized everything in a way that I could easily delegate some of the responsibilty.  Except for some challenging wind and a deluge of rain for our unloading we had pretty good conditions. Everyone  seemed to enjoy the experience and I felt really good about it. 

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Favorite adventure (you've taken personally or guided professionally)? 

In 2015 I finished kayaking the entire coast of Maine with my friend, Jenna. We started in Rye, NH and finished in Canada on Campobello Island. It took four summers to complete the journey.  We had hoped to complete it in three summers but in 2014 hurricane Arthur decided we should end our adventure in Jonesport rather than finishing the coast. As you might imagine I've got stories to tell. That trip had some delightful moments and some real trials. It helped me hone my navigation skills and my  tolerance for long open water crossings. On day two we paddled from Smutty Nose Island, which is part of Isle of Shoals, directly to York Beach. It was a nine mile crossing, really exposed. At one point a small fishing boat pulled along side of us. The driver leaned out and asked, "Did you mean to be here?". We giggled a bit and answered, "Yes, we actually planned this crossing and meant to be here." It was sweet that he was concerned.

An essential piece of gear or item to make a trip more fun/safe/enjoyable?

Suzanne on top, Ashley on bottom. 

Suzanne on top, Ashley on bottom. 

Other than the obvious safety gear: life jacket, pump, float, chart, compass, radio, etc having a waterproof camera is great. There are so many great photo opps though I have to admit that lately I've gotten lazy. I've been relying on friends who always have their cameras at the ready but I've got a decent waterproof camera so I plan to change my evil ways and start taking more pictures in 2018. 


Fort Gorges Status Update


Fort Gorges has been in the news a lot this past year, and we've fielded inquiries and comments from lots of folks looking for updates. The Army Corps of Engineers has been hard at work over the summer and through the fall making improvements and repairs to the structure. Fortunately, the fort remained open except for a few a few days. Safety was the primary focus of this summer's work, as the Army Corps took steps to prevent further deterioration to the vaulted bricks from weight and water and added new railings and gates. The new lookout area on the north side is a great addition!

The City of Portland has assured the public that the fort will remain open to visitors once work is complete this winter. We're looking forward to continuing our daily tours of the fort next summer. If you're interested in learning more about the Fort Preservation Project visit this page on the City's website, and also consider supporting the Friends of Fort Gorges

View back to Portland from new lookout area  

View back to Portland from new lookout area


Portland Residents: Bring a Friend and Paddle for Free!

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Portland Paddle will be open through September and during the first two weekends in October. Fall is a great time for paddling on Casco Bay, and we wanted to offer a special deal to make it easier for locals to get on the water. 


On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for the rest of September Portland residents who rent one kayak or SUP for 1-2 hours can rent another SUP or kayak for free at the same time. 

CONDITIONS: At least one person renting in the group must be a Portland resident. If you are renting a tandem kayak you can either rent another kayak for free or you can receive half-off the cost of renting one tandem kayak. We require renters to be off the water 30 minutes before sunset; that's roughly 6:30 PM for the last few weeks of this month. We suggest making reservations or calling before you show up; we may shorten our operating hours on days when we have no reservations. 

PLEASE NOTE: Our usual rental policies regarding safety still apply. We many place restrictions on where groups can paddle based on experience and the sea conditions. 

Solar Eclipse Paddle: A Special Celestial Kayak Tour

1PM to 4PM on August 21
$55 per person

On Monday, August 21 the moon will cross in front of the sun, creating a rare solar eclipse across the United States. What better place to view this astronomical wonder then from the sea of a sea kayak on Casco Bay! 


We've created a special kayak tour that's timed just right with the eclipse. The tour will include all the elements of our regular kayak tours but will also offer the opportunity to observe the moon's path across the sun from several vantage points. We'll aim to land at Fort Gorges during the peak of the eclipse so that we can view the phenomenon from atop the fort's walls. 

Our tour, which begins at 1pm and ends at 4pm, is designed to last for the entirety of the eclipse. According to the Portland Press Herald, "in Greater Portland the eclipse will begin about 1:30 in the afternoon, peak about about 2:45 p.m. and end a few minutes before 4 p.m." Although we'll only see a partial eclipse in Maine it should still be quite a sight to behold. 

This tour, which is open to paddlers of all skill levels, will begin with a brief lesson on the basics of sea kayaking. We have both solo and tandem sea kayaks, and we'll provide a dry bag so you can bring along a camera, phone, snack or other items. 

We will not be providing any special equipment for viewing the eclipse, so you should plan to bring your own for the best viewing experience. For tips on various viewing methods check out this website:

To book your spot click on the button below.  You'll be asked to make a 25% deposit. Send us an email at if you have questions. 

Book Now

Used Paddleboard for Sale!


Bounce boards starting at $600

We just received a shipment of shiny, brand new stand-up paddleboards (SUPs), so we're selling off a handful of our older used SUPs. We'll be selling these use SUPS, which go new for more than $1,200, for prices ranging from $600 to $700.  

To make a purchase please stop by our shop on any weekday between 10:00 AM and 7:00 PM or by appointment at other times. We'll show you what's available. If you like what you see you can walk away with it! If you'd like to try a SUP on the water for 10 minutes just let us know. For more information about Bounce SUPs, visit the company's website: We are selling all three models that Bounce offers. 

All sales are final and all gear is used. The prices are based on an item's current condition, including any dents, scrapes or damage. We do not offer refunds or returns and our staff are not prepared to negotiate prices. Please do not buy an item unless you are sure you are satisfied with its condition and the price. We think we are offering some great deals, but you can also find great deals at other local outfitters and on Craigslist. 

Looking for a Used Kayak? 
Stay tuned! We'll have some for sale soon. If there's a certain boat you know you'd like to buy let us know and we'll try to let you know when it's available for purchase. 

Work for Portland Paddle! We're hiring.

Portland Paddle is staffed by a talented team of folks who are passionate about paddling. Many of staff members from previous years will be back again this year, but we're also seeking candidates for several new positions for our 2017 season, which runs from late May through September. Here are the positions that are open: 

Free Mini-Lesson in SUP Every Day at Crescent Beach State Park


Every Day at 11:30 at Crescent Beach State Park

Stand-up paddling (SUP) is a pretty easy sport to pick up, but we've learned over the years that people tend to fall in love a lot more quickly and deeply with SUP if they start off with some basic instruction. So when we launched our new site at Crescent Beach State Park this summer we wanted to make it as easy as possible for novice paddlers to get some expert guidance.  

So we decided to offer a free mini-SUP-lesson every day at 11:30. The lesson offers just a quick, 15-20 minute overview of the basic strokes and techniques, along with key safety considerations. But it's enough to get a first- or second-time paddler started with confidence. If you enjoy the lesson we'll ask if you want to rent a board for another hour or two, but no pressure -- if you want to call it a day that's fine too! 

Find our table and check in with staff when you arrive for your lesson or rental. 

Find our table and check in with staff when you arrive for your lesson or rental. 

Crescent Beach offers a terrific environment for stand-up paddling -- both for experts and novices. There's plenty to explore along the coastline and advanced paddlers can venture out to Richmond Island or beyond. Remember to dress to get wet. There's a decent chance you'll fall off the board at some point, and you'll need to wade into the water before launching your SUP. If you end up renting a board you might consider renting a wetsuit along with your board -- or at least bringing along a warm synthetic layer. 

WHEN: Every single day at 11:30 AM
WHERE: Crescent Beach State Park (look for our sandwich boards; park entrance fees apply) 
COST: None! Totally free. Optional SUP rentals after the lesson are $25 for one hour or $30 for two hours. 

5th Anniversary Celebration on Sunday! Paddling Demos, Coffee & Donuts, Free SUP and more...

The Portland Paddle staff! 

The Portland Paddle staff! 

It's time to celebrate the start of our fifth season! Join us for a paddle party this Sunday, June 25. Stop by our shop between 10am and noon to to partake in the following festivities: 

  • Free Coffee By Design coffee and Holy Donuts (10 to noon)
  • Try SUP for the first time for free (10 to 11): If you've never tried stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) our instructors will be on hand offering some pointers and giving you the chance to try it out for 15 minutes. If you like it, you can rent the SUP for a full hour or more.
  • SUP rescue demos (10:30-11:15): Our SUP instructor will show you how to  safely recover from a fall and what to do if somebody you're paddling with can't get back on their SUP. 
  • Kayak rescue demos (11:15-noon): Our kayak instructor demonstrate some techniques used to reenter a kayak after a capsize. 
  • Trip-planning advice (10 to noon): If you're considering a sea kayaking trip on the Maine Island Trail stop by and let us help you plan a route and choose island destinitions. We'll have nautical charts, guidebooks and experienced guides on hand to answer your questions. We can also tell you about the guided multi-day trips we offer. 

In addition to these special happenings we'll also have our usual offerings on Sunday, including a guided sea kayak trip to Fort Gorges, a SUP Harbor Tour, our new Lighthouse & Fort Kayak Tour, and a Sunset Kayak Tour. 

Hope to see you Sunday!