Local Residents Share How They Enjoy the Outdoors
Welcome to LIVING outdoors! We thought we’d share with you a few people who take full advantage of what Brevard offers outdoors. Some are athletes, some just enjoy the good life outside, but all represent some activity you can likely try, even if you don’t become an expert or an addict. These activities can be solo or in large groups, on the beach with a friend, and even at home. So, let’s grab a surfboard, a bike, or a glass of cabernet and get started…
Ed & Kaitlin Donner, Triathletes
Kaitlin Donner grew up in an athletic family. Her parents ran the Disney Marathon. At the University of Florida, she ran track and field as well as cross-country. “My family has always been active; we loved being outside. What better place than the Space Coast to enjoy being by and in the water, running and cycling on some of the best roads of the country?” Donner has also been to two Olympic qualifiers, and is one of the top 10 female triathletes in the country. Ed Donner, Kaitlin’s husband says, “She doesn’t like to talk about herself much, but that’s a big highlight.”
Ed Donner found triathlons late in life. In his 20s, he found the sport through running. “I used to run the causeway every day, and just found it as a great release, but once I found endurance sports, it really opened up my eyes to challenging myself. I found I was good at it, and then pursued the Ironman triathlon. It took me about 20 Ironman races, but I finally made it to the Ironman in Hawaii last year; that’s the world championship, the one everybody knows about.”
“We got into this sport in very different ways, but we talk about it all the time,” Kaitlin Donner adds. “We notice if we don’t exercise for a day, we don’t feel as good, we don’t feel as mentally sharp. When we go running in the morning, we’re able to focus much better throughout the day and be much more productive.”
“When someone is new to triathlons, they can be good at swimming and maybe not so good at running, but they have strengths and weaknesses. But if you are only a runner and you’re just not a good runner, it’s kind of challenging. When you get to triathlon there are age groups and skill groups where you can be amongst people like you. It starts with coming to the race and watching, seeing all the different types of people that are racing, big and small, tall and short. And then start a training plan and sign up for the next race,”
Ed Donner explains.
Interestingly, Ed Donner is a financial planner, and Kaitlin just completed her doctorate in physical therapy. They are working on how to combine their careers in private practice to manage elite athletes both physically and financially.
Ron DuBois, Paddleboarder
“I moved here and went to Florida Tech to surf,” Ron DuBois explains. “I was a surfer as a kid and lived on the west coast of Florida. When I was in high school, we would make road trips over here to surf. We thought we were big surfers,” he recalls. After a shoulder injury years ago left him unable to paddle out beyond the breakers to surf, he won a paddleboard in a raffle. “I swear, I think I bought one ticket. It sat in my garage for maybe six months,” DuBois said. “Then one of my buddies sent me a YouTube video of Laird Hamilton on a big 50-foot wave. I thought out loud, ‘what’s he got in his hand?’” DuBois realized Hamilton was on a stand-up paddleboard, or SUP, using a paddle to surf the large wave. He realized he could likely paddle standing up all day long. DuBois says, “I caught one wave and realized, I got this. As big and clunky as the board was, my shoulder injury did not matter anymore.” DuBois then went down to Longboard House in Indialantic, and they set him up with his first proper board.
DuBois and his family have done everything on the water. They are scuba divers, they fish, surf, and they paddleboard together. “We’ve taken our SUPs all over Florida and to other countries.” DuBois surfs more now than ever. “It is the best workout I have ever done, and I have done plenty of workouts.” And what about paddleboarding here at home? DuBois tells us, “There are not many places where, on any given day, you can put a paddle out and have dolphins and manatees swimming around you. The birds are amazing, and there is no cell phone, no clanking stuff and no one raising their voice at you. It is just beautiful; standing up gives you a whole new view on the water.”
Lastly, DuBois adds, “There is something great about being on water. Once you are out there it is like nothing else. It is like no surfing I have ever done. Surfing on a paddleboard is easy to learn.”
Kristen Klein, Runner
The national anthem is performed to perfection, then the singer hands off the mic and steps into the corral near the front of the pack, ready to race. The runners are joined by former astronauts, surfing legends, world-renowned artists, environmental advocates, cancer survivors, educators, rocket scientists, executive directors, kids of all ages and first time racers, this is running on the Space Coast.
“It is Saturday morning and I find myself standing in a race corral nearly half naked with a thousand of my closest friends. I feel the body heat of the runners next to me, smell their perspiration and Axe Body Spray. I look down at my feet and notice the goosebumps on my legs, not because I’m cold, but because I’m nervous. In the crowd of athletes are familiar faces, most I see only at races, but they feel like family to me.
Every race is different and every runner has a story. Running has been my constant and I can do it anywhere. It has been my way of connecting with my surroundings, the environment, people and community on a local and global scale. I don’t wear a watch and you’ll find me barefoot on the beach. The seagulls are familiar with my stride now and no longer fly away.
As the 10-second countdown begins in the corral, I’m overwhelmed by emotion and nerves and start to tear up. I love running. I’m inspired by my dad who taught himself to walk again and by my mom who pushed him to do so.
Five seconds. I’m grateful to be in a relationship with a man who has his own passion for running. I love the worldly racing experiences we have shared together and I am looking forward to many more adventures with him.
Three seconds. Deep breath. Focus and enjoy this moment.
Set. Holy moly, am I ready for this race?!
Al Steiginga, Boating
Brevard County has great in shore areas you can fish that aren’t shallow. If you fish the Keys you can hit rock bottom in a lot of places. But here, the worst thing you can do is hit some sand. The fishing is not as epic as it is down there, but it is a little more family friendly. You can go around any of the islands here, catch snook, trout and catfish, and have a great time with your family.
We have a lot of great boat ramps in Brevard County. The Sebastian Inlet ramp is nice, and we also have Port Canaveral. That boat ramp is incredible now that they moved it to the mouth of the inlet.
My first boat was an 18-footer, but I’d suggest renting a boat first. The marina in Eau Gallie rents boats, so does Captain Hiram’s. They have deck boats, and they have boats with center consoles. I tell everyone, if you didn’t get the addiction like me, you can rent a boat and take your family out for 300 to 400 bucks for a whole day. You can even rent pontoon boats, take 10 people out and see the manatees, see the dolphins. The main thing I like about fishing? Once I get a certain distance away from land, my phone doesn’t work. It’s just total freedom out there and you never know what’s going to happen, what you’re going to catch, and what your day is going to bring. That can be relaxing and exciting.
Remember, if you’re going to own a boat and fish, it’s a day of preparation, a day of fishing, and a day of cleaning the boat. It’s three days of your life, so you must love it.
Me? I do love it. I get out on the water and it’s freedom.
Joni Norton, Outdoor Chef
If you are not inclined to paddle the length of Merritt Island or run a marathon, we have news for you. Maybe the single best way to enjoy the outdoors in Brevard is from your own lanai. Even the best athletes appreciate a rubbed pork loin and a nice pinot noir. No article on enjoying the outdoors would be complete without that which we all enjoy, a quiet night at home on a warm Florida evening.
Joni Norton was anxious to share her (and husband Doug’s) summer kitchen in Wyndham. “The way I live in my home, I am kitchen-centric. My heart is in my kitchen. Our summer kitchen allows me to take advantage of four seasons and to enjoy cooking, grilling and entertaining outside, whether it is just ourselves or our neighborhood full of friends. I probably cook outdoors three times a week, weather permitting. Sometimes I just come out and grill the meat or fish and then come inside and finish the rest,” Norton says.
Norton has always loved to make meals. She grew up in a family where both parents cooked. “They were both born and raised in Chicago. I have this beautiful mix of food culture in my life. I have my Polish father, my German-Irish mother, and then I was raised in Pennsylvania around Pennsylvania Dutch and Amish cooking. I have this mental cookbook of all these amazing recipes; I love being able to cook a meal for our friends and neighbors and introduce them to recipes that I grew up with.”
“Before coming here we lived in California, but this is my first true outdoor summer kitchen. It is so wonderful to have a bar, a small seating area at the end there, so I don’t feel like I’m off to the side. Whether friends are in the hot tub, lounging in the chairs, at the dining table or watching TV, I’m still part of everything. We open the doors and have such a beautiful addition to our indoor living.”
For those of us not born here, we all bring our own history with us to Florida. What better way to share where we’ve come from and where we’ve been than cooking for friends at home on a beautiful Brevard evening?