In this April 2022 file photo, Larry Merrill of Orrington paddles in the Meduxnekeag River Canoe Race in Houlton. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times)

There are few things Larry Merrill enjoys more than kayaking.

On Feb. 1, the Orrington man headed onto the water yet again. This time, he achieved an impressive paddling milestone.

It marked the completion of 30 consecutive years in which Merrill will have paddled at least once every month in Maine, for 20 minutes or longer.

Merrill hoped to have a friend join him when he put in at 1 p.m. at the picnic area/boat launch on Sedgeunkedunk Stream, just beyond Bob’s Kozy Korner store in Orrington.

The last month during which the Bangor lawyer didn’t go for a spin in his kayak was March 1993.

The 78-year-old Merrill admits February can be challenging when it comes to getting on open water, in somewhat favorable conditions, for a brief paddle.

“I always try to get out early in the month to be sure I don’t mess up,” he said, noting that he prefers the temperature be at least 20 degrees to prevent the formation of ice on his boat and paddle.

And he has no intention of stopping any time soon.

“Now I’m aiming for 50 years. I’ll only be 98 then, so what the heck,” Merrill said.

The 30-year streak is a testament not only to Merrill’s determination, but to his quest to remain physically fit and mentally active. He is a longtime competitor on the Maine whitewater racing circuit and also participates in the Sub 5 Track Club/Tradewinds Market summer road racing series.

On Dec. 31, 2022, he ran in the Finale 5K in Bangor.

“It’s funny because I was a fat kid. I didn’t do much at all when I was a kid,” Merrill said.

Merrill said paddling alone in his kayak provides an escape and quality time to enjoy nature. That is, when he’s not competing in a race.

“I just like to be out and it’s totally peaceful in the winter,” said Merrill, who is treated to frequent sightings of ducks and other birds, including the occasional bald eagle, and muskrats.

“It’s just something that most people don’t realize how pleasant it is,” he said. “I’m always perfectly warm once I get in the boat.”

On the whitewater circuit, Merrill is the elder statesman of the kayakers, while Bucky Owen, the former commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, still has that distinction among canoeists.

“Unfortunately, everyone else has died off,” joked Merrill, who still works in his law office three days a week.

“I enjoy what I do, so why not do it?” he said.

Merrill will embark on the first month of his 31st year of paddling outings in March in the hope of extending the streak for years to come.

Pete Warner

Pete graduated from Bangor High School in 1980 and earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He grew up fishing at his family's camp on Sebago Lake but didn't take...