Enjoy The Adventure Of Orienteering
A Family-Friendly Sport
SOAR is the acronym for Suncoast Orienteering
Wouldn’t that be “SO”?
NO, SOAR stands for Suncoast Orienteering and Adventure Racing. We have hosted some bike orienteering and rogaines, and this year we expect to hold our first canoe orienteering event. However, mostly we are just doing good old ‘foot orienteering’. We are a registered non-profit club known as Suncoast Orienteering, Inc.
We started operating in 2012 as a wing of Florida Orienteering but in 2014 we incorporated and moved out onto our own. We have continued to grow ever since. From an original three events a year, this year we will be hosting nine events, from November to March.
The events feature different length courses based on navigating to a series of checkpoints (controls). You can race (run) the course for speed or take your time (walk). It’s up to you.
The common theme is that participants are using a detailed map and a compass for navigation. A GPS device is not needed, not even allowed except to record your route.
Events are family-friendly and usually dog-friendly too, however, this depends on the venue (some have pet rules). Courses vary in length from about 2.5 kilometers (1.7 miles) for a novice level course to an 8-9 kilometer (5-5.5 mile) expert course.
Entry fees are low and reasonable, usually, no more than $10, which includes a map for navigation, and some events have a park entry fee. Compasses and electronic finger-sticks, for checking in at each control marker are available to rent. Many choose to own their own compasses and finger sticks.
At most of our events, you will see a lot of high school-age students. Chances are they are competing on the JROTC side of the competition. At each event, they are there to compete for medals, trophies, and ranking points. Some people come to our orienteering events just to watch the JROTC competition. Well, they are parents and friends of the cadets who are there to watch the action. As a not-for-profit organization SOAR operates on a tight budget. We keep entry fees down and largely can do that by having volunteers step up to take on many roles in hosting an event. When we do accumulate some money, we are able to support our young orienteers by supporting their participation in national-level events. In 2021-22 we granted close to $3,000 to JROTC teams going to two national championships.
Back around 2012-2014, as talk of spinning Suncoast Orienteering (SOAR) out of Florida Orienteering (FLO), the subject of a club name and logo became important. Suncoast Orienteering was natural for a name, After all, we are located in the Suncoast area of Florida, one of the 12 marketing “coasts” in the state.
We then added Adventure Racing to the name partly as we occasionally broaden out from orienteering events and partly because we thought the acronym SOAR would be catchy.
The history of Navi
We did not create Navi (full name: Navi-Gator). Navi came from, of all places, Canada. I guess you could say Navi is a “snow gator”. In Canada, there is a city called Guelph. In the 1970’s, folks in Guelph formed an orienteering club called the Guelph Gators. Someone there came up with the illustration of a running alligator who looked a lot like Navi. I always like it, however, over the years the Guelph club declined until it was dormant. I sought and gained permission to use their gator image for our new club, copied it through an orienteering mapping program, and added the marker and lettering to make Navi truly our own.
We don’t hold them every year but when we do special long-distance events, they are called …
Footnote: Happily, the Guelph Gators orienteering club has made a bit of a rebound so now you may see twin gator logos at orienteering events around North America.
Gord Hunter, Suncoast Orienteering