“Will I get wet?” I asked when contemplating the new sport of stand-up paddle boarding on a recent trip to Florida’s northwest coast. “Not if you don’t fall in,” was the reply. But I wore my bathing suit just in case.
So I’m kneeling on the Yak board, just as Tom Losee has instructed. A quick shove moves me away from shore—and I’m ready to stand up. No worries—this board features the stability of a kayak and the fun factor of a surfboard. Before long I’m upright paddling across Grayton Lake, surprised by how easy it is.
It’s a combination of surfing and paddling that Losee and his friend Jeff Archer quickly got hooked on, claiming it was like walking on water. Five years ago they introduced stand-up paddling, or SUP, to the area when they started a business based in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida called YOLO—You Only Live Once—with their own line of paddle boats.
Stand-up paddling is really catching on in their neck of the woods near Seaside and Rosemary Beach. “This area is a hot bed of paddle boarding because Florida has so many waterways,” Losee says. He attributes the company’s popularity to easy access to the Gulf of Mexico, bays, harbors, natural springs, Intracoastal Waterway, and coastal dune lakes. “Florida will be to paddle boarding as California is to surfing,” he adds.
Larger than a traditional surfboard, YOLO boards are buoyant and stable. The Yak model is even suitable for fishing, and you can strap on supplies for a picnic when you feel like resting. SUP is quickly becoming the newest way to navigate brackish waters that lead to the Gulf. “Especially in summer the water can be glassy, and there’s always a breeze,” Losse says.
During my SUP experience I found that it’s great low impact exercise, but good leg muscles definitely help balance your body as you switch the paddle from side to side. The good thing is you can stop paddling any time, even sit down and enjoy the scenery. You have an excellent opportunity to observe marine life up close because the water is often clear enough to see all the way to the bottom.
Excited by my success in this new venture, I’m happy to report that my swim suit stayed dry. Lessons are available for individuals or groups, but you’ll find it only takes a few minutes to get the hang of paddling while standing. For prices check www.yoloboard.com or call 850-687-5700.
Photo by Larry Burmeier
Read more about Rosemary Beach http://stripedpot.com/2011/05/27/discover-paradise-at-rosemary-beach-florida/