In recent years, stand up paddle boarding (or SUP), has become one of the fastest growing water sports in the world, with as many as 5 million people expected to have tried the activity since its popularity began to surge in 2011.
Relatively easy to learn, this fun, full-body workout provides stress relief, improves balance, and builds core and leg strength.
Whether paddling on the peaceful and serene Indian or Banana Rivers, or offshore along Brevard’s 72 miles of epic beaches, the activity is a great way to enjoy breathtaking views of nature while getting plenty of sunshine and exercise. (Be sure to cover up and use sunscreen, it can get brutally hot out on our waters).
From manatees to alligators that are often spotted in the backwaters of Turkey Creek in the southern part of the county, to the hundreds of exotic birds and beautiful bottle-nose dolphin that frolic in Sykes Creeks’ Merritt Island Natural Wildlife Refuge, paddle boarding offers local participants the chance to commune with the largest collection of endangered wildlife and plants in the continental United States.
Stand Up paddleboards can be used for many water activities including fishing, surfing, and yoga. Racing also is becoming popular with a number of events scheduled around the globe all year long.
On the Space Coast, a number of outfitters and tour operators offer options to glide the waters and center your spirit through this meditative sport.
SoBe Surf & Paddle
SoBe Surf and Paddle caters to small groups and provides individual instruction for all skill levels. The store stocks paddleboards and accessories for sale or rent. For info: www.sobesurf.com or 321-926-6571.
The store’s owner and professional SUP athlete, Girard Middleton, offers multiple river paddle eco-tour options, as well as beginning and advanced SUP beach (ocean) wave riding instruction. Tours depart from the Brevard Veterans Memorial Park in Merritt Island.
An added benefit of paddle boarding, especially on a calm evening after sunset during low moonlight times, is the opportunity to witness a phenomenon called bioluminescence.
During the winter months through February, comb jellyfish are abundant in the cooler waters, and can be seen in the backwaters. Called Ctenophores, the non-stinging creatures made of 95 percent water and eight rows of cilia, give off incredible luminescent glow. Likewise, during the summer months, when the temperatures are warmer, dinoflagelletes plankton (small fishes) illuminate at night after being stirred by the movement of the paddles skimming over the water.
Danny Smith, owner of Paddling Paradise near the Indian River Lagoon in the southern part of Brevard, offers tours of the Turkey Creek Sanctuary. Along with several group and individual eco-adventure tours, the business also sells and rents boards and equipment.
Smith also hosts and sponsors several local amateur and professional paddle board races, open to participants of all skill levels. Expert instruction for advanced paddle board racing is also available, as well as classes for yoga paddling, fishing trips and other group outings.
Sports on Boards
SUP boards as large as 14 feet can be set up to accommodate fishing gear that can be attached to the vessel, including poles, buckets and even a small seat.
SUP yoga offers relaxation on the water and forces a participant to truly be in the present due to the movement of the board. It is recommended that a stiff board be used for this activity to provide more stability.
Racing boards, used for flat water paddle both on rivers and in the ocean, can span more than 14 feet in length and often are designed with special fins. Inflatable paddle boards have made their way to market in recent years and fill a unique niche for those “on the go.” The portable boards come in multiple sizes and can be used for both ocean SUP wave riding as well as flat-water paddling.
Sue DeWerff Panzarino
Sue is an avid surfer, shark attack survivor and storyteller who loves to write about the wonderful people and great organizations on the Space Coast.