It's time to ditch the lazy weekend routine and opt for the taste of saltwater, the thrill of competition and the good vibes of helping strengthen our coastal community's preservation efforts.

At 8 a.m. sharp on Sept. 7, the 15th annual Tybee Island Sea Kayak Race will begin at A-J's Dockside, and there's no reason to be schlubbing on the couch when there's open water to be cut and summer sun to soak up.

Casual paddler? There's a race just for you. No boat of your own? Rent one on site.

Plus, you'll be supporting a great cause.

The annual race benefits the Tybee Island Marine Science Center, and last year's event raised at least $13,000 for the center's efforts to educate the public and preserve our island wildlife - particularly loggerhead sea turtles through the Tybee Island Sea Turtle Project.

"We are proud that the Tybee Island Marine Science Center has always been the beneficiary of the races," said race coordinator Debbie Kearney.

"We strongly support the center's mission to cultivate responsible stewardship of Coastal Georgia's natural resources through education, conservation and research ... and we are excited about the Marine Science Center's big goings-on, like the new facility to be built on Tybee's north end and the Sidewalk to the Sea program for inner-city kids."

Participants have three event options this year, all with staggered start times.

Tybee River Race is a 6 1/2-mile excursion on the river separating Tybee and Little Tybee. While this race emphasizes speed and endurance, casual paddlers are welcome to join in.

"It's like being the walker in a running race," Kearney said.

Casual paddlers will paddle 2 miles of the race. Paddleboarders may participate, too. Cost is $45 and an additional $20 if you don't have a boat of your own and need to use one provided by the race, or $40 for American Canoe Association members.

The Little Tybee Challenge jumps up to 8 miles and is recommended for those with rough water and self-rescue experience.

Boats are required to be seaworthy and deck lines are highly recommended.

Paddlers will journey through tidal creeks and rivers, open coastal water and two surf zones.

Paddleboards are welcome in this event, as well. Cost is $45 or $40 for American Canoe Association members.

Finally, there's the Race across the River, reserved for Gold & Platinum sponsors. Sponsors choose an employee or group member to race across the Back River and back to the marina.

The winner receives a two-hour natural history trip for 10 or more guided by Mike Neal on his Island Explorer boat, or a Savannah Canoe & Kayak kayak trek for eight.

There are plenty of prizes in store for this year's winners.

"Race winners receive medals and all participants have their name in the hat for the general drawing that's part of the awards ceremony," Kearney said.

"We have great paddlesport-related prizes donated from Savannah Canoe & Kayak, North Island Surf & Kayak, Sea Kayak Carolina, Sea Kayaking USA and SouthEast Adventure Outfitters. We also have some local restaurant gift certificates."

A drawing will be held for the ultimate prize, an Imagine Surf stand-up paddleboard/kayak crossover donated by Half-Moon Outfitters.

"All race participants' names are in that hat, too, but anyone can put their name in the hat by buying a drawing ticket," Kearney said.

Tickets can be purchased at Half-Moon Outfitters, Papa's BBQ and the Tybee Island Marine Science Center, and will be available the morning of the races at A-J's.

Spectators will be welcome at A-J's, where the races begin and end.

"Cover your ears (for the start) - the starting air horn is obnoxiously loud," Kearney said with a smile.

"It's fun to see all those kayaks lined up and taking off as the horn blows ... Then there is excitement again as racers paddle hard on the river trying to cross the finish line.

"Whether you are racing, volunteering or spectating, the Tybee Kayak Races are a great way to spend a little time in our beautiful coastal environment. It's just plain fun."

LEARN MORE

Go to tybeekayakrace.blogspot.com to register, learn how to become a sponsor and more. For more information, you also can email tybeekayakraces@gmail.com.