“That’s A Good Question” (FAQs)

  1. How much does it cost?
    • Here’s the good news: Orienteering is one of the most inexpensive activities around.
    • SOAR is a registered “not-for-profit” organization, so we are not out to make a profit, and we are just happy to cover our expenses. For 2023-2024, our individual fee will be $10. Groups of up to four pay the same fee as individuals ($10). If you want extra maps (that’s recommended), the cost is $3 per map.
    • We also have a “frequent orienteer” program. Each year for your second, third, and fourth event your registration fee goes down by $1. So your cost will be $10.. $9.. $8.. $7 (no further reduction).
    • Extras: Timing Stick to rent: $3, or $35 to purchase; Compass: $4 to rent.
    • What if you want to run a second or third course? That is allowed and the only extra cost is the $3 for each new map. Each course is printed on a different map.
  2. Can I get a discount by buying a membership to Suncoast Orienteering?
    • We have done away with club memberships and membership fees. Everyone pays the same fee, unless … and here’s the good news: At each event, before, during and after, we need helpers. Helpers set out the control points, be forerunners to check there are no missing controls, helpers to handle the event registration, helpers assist with beginner instruction (brief tutorial), helpers help to organize the post-race refreshments, helpers pick up the control markers, and perhaps even help search for lost orienteers.
    • Helpers/volunteers get FREE entry to the event or a future event. Sign up to be a helper and at no cost become a Friend of Suncoast Orienteering.
    • More experienced volunteers (Friends of Suncoast Orienteering) can become event directors and course setters, and assist in making a map of a new orienteering venue or updating an existing one. This level would be at the top of the volunteering pyramid.
  3. How much do I need to know?
    • You don’t need to know a thing ahead of time!
    • That’s right. Most events feature beginner and intermediate courses, or are otherwise adjustable to your ability. Plus, we try to have every event staffed with a newcomer instructor who hangs out near the registration desk to get you started.
    • Can you find the food court by reading the mall map? Then you can orienteer!
    • But seriously, if you want to do a bit of study before coming to an event, check out what an orienteering map is and what the symbols represent. You know, orienteering is a world-wide sport and the symbols on an orienteering map are standard, the same for EVERY country in the world.
    • What is a “finger stick” (also known as a timing stick, SI-card, e-punch, or tap card)? A finger stick records your race. Why is it called a “finger stick”? Because you wear it strapped to a finger. At each control, you’ll dip the finger stick into an electronic box which will beep and flash as confirmation. After you finish, you’ll download the stick at the download desk and get a receipt that shows which controls you visited and how long you took between each control point; these are your “split” times.
    • Part of the fun of orienteering is comparing your “split” times with people who completed the same course and discussing the routes you took!
  4. Do I have to run?
    • Orienteering is for all speeds, fast and slow. Whether you want a thrilling or relaxing experience is up to you!
  5. How long will it take me?
    • This is so variable. Our courses are measured in kilometers. A beginner course will be around 2.5 km (about 1.5 miles) and advanced courses will be about 5-7 km (about 3-4 miles), sometimes longer.
    • It should not surprise anyone that it may take the beginner the same time to do a 2.5 km course as it will take an expert to do a 7 km course. We all just get better and faster with experience. So count on the average novice taking about one hour for the course. Our orienteering events are not all day or involve overnight activities.
  6. How do I choose a course?
    • Not sure which course to choose? Events generally offer Beginner (Yellow), Intermediate (Orange), Short Advanced (Green), and Long Advanced (Blue) course options.
    • Beginner courses stay on trails and are good for children accompanied by adults.
    • Intermediate courses take short excursions off-trail and are appropriate for teens and adults.
    • Advanced courses may have routes completely off-trail and may require reading subtle map details to navigate. The challenge of an advanced course depends heavily on the venue, so there is a need to read the map notes for more information on what to expect.
  7. What should I wear?
    • Dress for speed. If you plan to walk, quick-drying hiking pants and day hiking shoes are a good choice. If you plan to run, running tights, tall socks & trail running shoes will suit you better.
    • Cover your legs. Even in a seemingly tame park, you may find yourself encountering vines, scrub, and other tough vegetation.
  8. Can I do it in a group?
    • Yes! You may participate in a group as large as 4 people, though for the best experience, we recommend that your group be only 2 or 3 people, so everyone stays engaged in the activity.
    • Also, we recommend that everyone in your group carries a map.
  9. Can I bring my dog?
    • So long as the park permits dogs, you are welcome to bring yours as long as they are on a leash and you clean up any mess that others could step in.
    • Also, please be mindful of other orienteers trying to pass you, or punch a control, and ensure that your dog does not interfere with others.
  10. What other animals might I encounter?
    • One of the great pleasures of orienteering in Florida is the wildlife, birds and animals you might encounter. Remember as a rule all other animals are wary of humans, and try to avoid humans. However, many animals may act aggressively if they are startled, feel cornered, or feel a need to protect their young.
    • Rule #2: PAY PARTICULAR ATTENTION TO HORSES & RIDERS. Several of our venues are popular riding locations. Neither the horses nor riders are used to seeing hundreds of people running on their trails waving pieces of paper (maps) in their hands. Slow to a walk, talk to the rider to make the horse know that the rider is comfortable.
  11. Can I follow other people?
    • The objective of orienteering is for participants to take a “self-chosen route through unknown terrain”, and most orienteering events are designed to discourage following. If you see another orienteer, they may be on a different course, at a different point on your course, or they could even be making a navigational mistake!
    • It’s better to focus on your own race and don’t follow others. In a competition, you could be disqualified for following another orienteer.
    • Even as a beginner you should be doing your own navigation, however, if you lack confidence or experience to navigate on your own, we’d rather have you pay attention to others than wander off totally lost. If you see someone and think you should ask for help, don’t be shy, go ahead and ask for assistance.
    • Keep in mind that someone in a race may not want to spend the time to help. He/she does not have to help unless there has been an injury.
  12. What do I do if I get lost?
    • If you don’t know where you are on the map:
      • STOP!
      • Look at your map, look around you, and look for features you see in the terrain. It’s okay to move around to see more features. Note what direction the features are facing as well.
      • Try again to find those features on the map, in the orientation that you see them.
    • If you’re still confused, then either:
      • Go to a larger, more prominent feature and try again.
      • Or, backtrack to where you last knew your location.
    • Finding larger features and backtracking are usually enough to relocate yourself. If you are still very confused, as a beginner, it is okay to ask for help if you encounter another orienteer. You are more likely to encounter an orienteer by waiting near a control.
    • If you are still very confused and don’t see anyone around, you should do one of the following, depending on your situation:
      • Head toward the SAFETY BEARING on the map. That will take you to a large boundary feature that should help guide you back.
      • If you cannot navigate back to the finish, due to being absolutely lost, then blow your whistle using 3 short blasts, and repeat until someone finds you. Note that orienteers are obligated to abandon their course and attend to the call of a whistle, so only blow your whistle if you are truly lost or hurt and cannot make it back to the finish.
    • You also may have the option to call the event safety phone number to seek assistance.
    • And finally, if you do not return to the finish by course closure time, a search party will be organized to find you.
  13. What do I do if I become injured on the course?
    • All participants MUST carry a whistle on the course. Complimentary whistles are available at the start tent (please only take one).
    • If you are injured on the course and need assistance, blow 3 long blasts to call for help.
    • If you hear a call for help, abandon your course to find the person in distress.
  14. What happens at course closure time?
    • At course closure time, volunteers will begin picking up the controls.
    • You MUST return to the finish by course closure time. If you do not return by course closure time, event volunteers will begin coordinating a search party.
    • If you need a long time on the course, start as early in the start window as possible, wear a watch, and be prepared to cut your course short to make it back by the course closure time.
  15. What if I don’t finish my course?
    • If your’re ready to call it a day you are welcome to cut your course short. However, you MUST return to the finish table to inform staff that you have returned safely. No one wants to be out there searching for you while you are enjoying a drink in a nearby pub!

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