Little Apple Paddle offers unique, fun experience despite not breaking world record

At Tuttle Creek State Park, 315 vessels sailed along on the lake located near Tuttle Creek Dam on July 13, 2019. (Olivia Bergmeier | Collegian Media Group)

Saturday morning saw the 5th Annual Little Apple Paddle, an attempt to break a Guinness World Record hosted by Manhattan Parks and Recreation, and I got to be a part of it.

This was my second year registering, and my hopes of getting to participate in breaking a world record — for the longest parade of canoes and kayaks — were as high as the water levels recently.

I wasn’t there for the first year, but Parks and Rec special event supervisor Ryan McKee was.

“The first year we were hoping for 50 people to show up and do it, and we had over a hundred,” McKee said.

Just four years later, Saturday’s paddle had over 400 people register.

At Tuttle Creek State Park, 315 vessels sailed along on the lake located near Tuttle Creek Dam on Saturday, July 13, 2019. (Olivia Bergmeier | Collegian Media Group)

The rapid growth of Little Apple Paddle in five short years is a testament to the special quality of the event, attracting people from across the state to get together and appreciate the beauty of Manhattan’s nearby waterways.

This year had an additional level of camaraderie due to the common goal of breaking a world record.

Beyond the fellowship among participants, the paddle entails the collaboration of many organizations and businesses around Manhattan, including Cox Bros. BBQ, Friends of Tuttle Creek State Park, Friends of the Kaw, Pathfinder, Fort Riley Morale, Welfare and Recreation, Manhattan Fire Department, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Guard, KSU Recreational Services and Visit Manhattan.

The morning of the event, the anticipation heightened steadily as the sun rose in the sky, the waterfront abuzz as the time came for everyone to bring their boats into the water to begin the route.

On the water, the paddle offers a truly unique experience, an unprecedented combination of serenity and community. The event takes kayaking/canoeing, a normally isolated experience, and transforms it into a social activity, with more than 300 boats gliding across the water navigating amongst each other.

A notably shorter route this year, the circuit around Tuttle Creek River Pond offered just enough water time to get a healthy amount of exercise without a regrettable sunburn.

Despite a prolonged game of bumper boats towards the end, where boats had to condense into a single file parade-fashion, crossing the finish line with the cameras rolling was a moment of pure fun.

At Tuttle Creek State Park, 315 vessels sailed along on the lake located near Tuttle Creek Dam on Saturday, July 13, 2019. (Olivia Bergmeier | Collegian Media Group)

Unfortunately, the parade fell just 12 boats short of breaking the world record, despite having enough people registered to break the record.

While I was hoping to be able to report our community breaking a Guinness World Record this weekend and to check that off my bucket list, it was nonetheless an enjoyable, energizing experience.

It remains to be seen whether the paddle next year will resume its previous route from Manhattan to St. George, which was changed due to recent flooding concerns, or stick with this year’s location at Tuttle Creek River Pond.

McKee said the event will potentially make another attempt at the world record in the future.

For anyone interested in kayaking opportunities that doesn’t want to wait until next year, an evening “Glow Paddle” is in the works for Oct. 12, McKee said.

McKee said the best part of organizing the Little Apple Paddle is seeing what it does for people.

“I think there’s a sense of accomplishment, there’s a sense of togetherness,” McKee said. “The best thing about it is that it includes everybody: families and kids and adults and senior citizens. … Everybody can go out and enjoy it and have a sense of the outdoors and just enjoy it.”

I couldn’t agree more, and can’t wait to see what the future holds for the annual Little Apple Paddle.

Rebecca Vrbas is junior in journalism and mass communications. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to

My name is Rebecca Vrbas. I’m the culture editor at the Collegian and a junior in journalism and mass communications. My hobbies include obsessing over an ever-expanding pool of musicals and cats (not the musical). I love writing because of the infinite intricacy of language, as well as its power to cultivate a sense of community through sharing experiences.