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Rowing the love boat

 Valentine’s Day is just a few days away and people are still frantically searching for the perfect gift. There are always the usual fallbacks — jewelry, an expensive dinner, a box of chocolates or a dozen red roses.

But this year, the Campus Recreation’s Outdoor Recreation Center is offering a unique alternative for Valentine’s Day: a weekend kayaking trip to Anclote Key Preserve State Park.

Attendees will spend most of Valentine’s Day paddling three and a half miles to the island. Once they reach shore and set up camp, they are free to walk along the sandy beach and spend time alone with their significant other.

“You’re in an environment where you’re away from everything that you worry about,” said Brett Morgan, outdoor recreation coordinator. “You’re away from all those stresses — you’re just there to enjoy that time with that person.”

Couples looking to connect on a deeper level have the option of using a tandem kayak, as opposed to a single kayak. In a tandem kayak, couples are forced to work together as a team, Morgan said.

“It’s a good test (for a relationship) because it’s very much about communication and teamwork,” he said. “Communication is one of the cornerstones to any relationship.”

Though it is scheduled for Valentine’s weekend, the trip is open to anyone — couples, single people and groups of friends.

Three slots for the trip are still open, but most everything is set and ready for the weekend, said D.J. Pollock, the professional leader for the trip.

Pollock said the majority of attendees are student couples, but some single people are attending with friends.

“It’s a great way to get away from it all, regardless of how romantic you want it to be,” said Amber Davis, a graduate assistant for outdoor recreation. “You just hear waves lapping. There is no traffic, you don’t hear horns, you don’t hear sirens, nothing. And even if you’re not looking for the romantic getaway, it’s just relaxing.”

The trip is a budget-friendly option for those looking to save money this Valentine’s Day. It costs $40 for students, $44 for faculty, staff and alumni and $53 for everyone else.

A similar trip with a private company would cost around $300, Morgan said.

The cost includes transportation, camping gear, kayaking equipment and meals, Morgan said.

The trip, like all of Outdoor Recreation’s trips, is open to participants of all fitness levels. A pre-trip meeting at the Campus Recreation Center will cover the basics of kayaking.

If students don’t wish to attend a Valentine’s Day trip, Outdoor Recreation is offering several other trips throughout the semester, including canoeing in March, rock climbing in April and two spring break trips.

“(The trips) give students a well-needed break from their academic rigor. We’re starting to come up on the first third of the semester — all those tests are probably coming up, papers have been due. People are starting to stress out a little bit,” Morgan said. “(The trips) allow them to get away from all that — it forces them to think about things in a different perspective, to reorganize those priorities and examine themselves a little bit differently.”

For more information on all the trips Outdoor Recreation has to offer, visit the Campus Recreation Center or call 813-974-5557.