Weather may make for a bumpy boat week: Speed boats descend on Destin for annual poker run

From Staff Reports
Powerboats are already lining up on Okaloosa Island in preparation for the annual Emerald Coast Poker Run.

Aug. 14-17 is Boat Week and speed boats like this one set up at the boardwalk on Okaloosa Island may be a common site — and sound in Destin — if the weather holds.

The 21st annual Emerald Coast Poker Run is one of the largest summer poker runs in the nation. It brings in locals and boaters from around the country to join the course with 10 card stops from Destin to Pensacola. More than 100 boats had already been registered as of Tuesday afternoon, with more expected.

The weekend events are complicated by some possible turbulence in the tropics. A tropical wave is spinning off heavy thunderstorms in the central Carribean.

As it pushes into the Gulf of Mexico a tropical depression or tropical storm may form, according to Weather Underground hurricane expert Jeff Masters, “and if its circulation extends high above the surface, a trough of low pressure over the northern Gulf of Mexico would likely steer the storm northwards to a landfall between Eastern Louisiana and the Florida Panhandle.” The storm system could dump a large area of 4-plus inches of rain, potentially causing “significant flooding” over the weekend.

But organizers say the event will go on rain or shine.

The fun begins Aug. 14 with a Luau Ladies Night at Helen Back and continues with the Miss Boat Week Bikini Contest at the Swamp. The action then swings to Destin on Aug. 16 where a captain’s party will rock AJ’s Seafood & Oyster Bar.

The main event runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Aug. 17 with each poker run stop offering a fun festival event. Stops include Northlight in Niceville, Shalimar Yacht Basin, Mango’s on the Bayou, Fudpucker’s, Captain’s Choice in Mary Esther, Bamboo Willies, Juana’s, Talbert Estate and a Helen Back stop at Adventure Marine. The run benefits several youth organizations and raises more than $150,000 each year.  

If you’d rather slow things down a little, the Back Porch Seafood and Oyster House and Destin Area Chamber of Commerce will host the “Paddle at the Porch” stand up paddle board race on the same day. There are two recreational races that will be one and three miles long, and a six mile elite race. Food and drinks will be available and awards will be given after the races.

Guests can then enjoy a raft-up party at Crab Island to close out the festivities on Sunday.

For more information on the week’s festivities check out or