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Local Meetup Group a Source of Adventure and Lasting Friendships

Apr 17, 2018 07:29AM ● Published by Kevin

Southwest Florida Adventure Group at Punta Gorda's Pedal and Play event in March 2018. Photo courtesy of Southwest Florida Adventure Group.

The Southwest Florida Adventure Group is all about friends, fun, and of course, adventure. Founded in 2009, the group organizes many adventure-oriented activities throughout the year. Those outings include outdoor exploration via cycling, hiking, and kayaking, to name a few.

The group was a spawn of a kayaking meetup in Fort Myers. While some group members were interested in only kayaking, others were seeking more adventures, like camping, cycling, and attending outdoor concerts. Just out of that interest, the new group was born, thanks to group leader Richard Styles, who resides in Brandon.

Since then, an additional nine group members have stepped into organizer roles. They, along with Styles, are able to post events and outings to the meetup page - anything from pickle ball to bike rides to hikes.

The group now consists of more than 2,400 members from all over the country - some local, some snowbirds, and some who were planning a vacation to Southwest Florida looking for a group of likeminded individuals with which they wanted to enjoy an adventure. Most outings, Styles said, consist of about 20 people.

The next outing is the Sharky's Ride the Beaches event, which serves as a fundraiser for the Livestrong Foundation and Team Tony, a local organization founded by a well-known cyclist in Southwest Florida. The group has done the ride consistently over the last decade. So far, 19 people have signed up from the event.

Ride the Beaches is the charitable foundation headed by Marc Alton, Executive Chef for Venice Pier Group as well as a local cycling enthusiast. He and Sharky's on the Pier started the ride 15 years ago as a way to give back and enhance cycling in the area. The charities of choice for this bike event centers around cancer survivorship. There are two distances - 35 and 70 miles - in which participants can ride. The Southwest Florida Adventure Group will do the 35-mile iteration.

Another fun event the group has done in the past is scalloping. The group rented a big house in Crystal River, where they took a guided tour in two boats, diving down 10 feet in the water to collect scallops. They were allowed back with 20 gallons of scallops, which they brought back to the rental and cooked.

"They made ceviche, we fried them, made a salad and added the scallops," Styles said. "It was a trip, but we came back and had a meal all together at the house."

One big advantage to joining the group, Styles said, is that some members are single travelers from outside of the state. So, it's a great opportunity to travel and see and do exciting things, without having to do it alone. For big group trips, like the scalloping trip, it also helps cut costs.

One lifelong friend Styles met through the group is a man from Ohio, who contacted him through the group in search of some new friends to help him see places in Southwest Florida. The adventure enthusiast from Ohio, Styles said, has ridden across the country on his bicycle three times.

"The group's been in existence for quite a while," Styles said. "It's been a lot of fun and I've made a lot of lasting friendships with people I would've never met otherwise."
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