For decades, kayakers and canoeists have been flocking to Southwest Florida to enjoy its calm waters and hundreds of miles of estuary systems teaming with wildlife. More recently, they have been joined by stand-up paddle boarders, who find the coastline and backwaters of Lee County ideal for practicing this relatively new, but fast growing sport.
While modern stand up paddle boarding has been around for more than 20 years, the sport just started to catch on in Florida about a decade ago. Once an unusual site, it’s now possible to spot just as many paddleboards on the water as kayaks and canoes.
While kayaking and canoeing are terrific for exploring aquatic environments, paddleboards offer a few added advantages that the other crafts don’t have. Paddleboards are designed for flat water, which Lee County has in abundance. Stand up paddling, more commonly referred to as "SUP," allows participants to take in more of the environment, including what’s going on underneath them.
SUP is also great exercise since paddlers are standing on a moving object causing every stabilizer muscle in their bodies, from the bottom of their feet all the way up through their core, to engage. Throw in the arm and upper body muscles used for paddle strokes, and you’ve got a full-body workout.
Getting started and exploring the area’s rich aquatic environments is relatively easy. You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to do SUP. At Yoloboard Adventures Sanibel, we’ve had clients as old as 89 and as young as 8 successfully stand-up paddle. A lesson or two from a professional definitely helps, as does a moderate level of fitness.
A few basic tests to see if you are physically capable of doing this are in order. Can you swim and tread water for at least 5 minutes? Can you power walk for an hour or get through a basic aerobics class? Can you stand on one foot for 30 seconds or more? Can you easily stand from a kneeling position without holding onto anything? Can you pull yourself from the deep end of a pool onto a deck without the aid of a ladder? If the answers are “yes” then you are ready to start your SUP adventure.
Next, look for a professional to teach you the basics. Paddling with an experienced instructor will help teach you proper technique and safety tips and help build your confidence. You may even want to consider a guided tour, where you’ll not only learn the finer points of paddle boarding, but you’ll also be treated to a knowledgeable guide who will point out unique features of local ecosystems.
These are easily accessible in Lee County, which happens to be home to one of Florida’s best paddle trails - The Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail. This 190-mile marked paddle trail meanders through the area’s coastal waters and inland tributaries and has dozens of launch points just a short drive from anywhere in the county.
Starting at the southern end of the trail in Bonita and ending north at Cayo Costa, the trail showcases Southwest Florida’s diverse aquatic ecosystems, from its shallow water estuaries dotted with mangrove islands, to the deep water channels teaming with wildlife. Dolphins, manatees, sharks, thick schools of mullets, bald eagles and osprey are just a few of the types of wildlife paddlers can expect to see.
Exploring these trails via paddleboard is just one more way paddlers can connect with nature from a new and challenging vantage point. We’ll look at more exciting spots to paddle in a later post.
For more information about stand up paddle lessons, eco tours, rentals and sales, please visit www.yoloboardadventuressanibel.com or call 239-249-4701.
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