CLEARWATER BEACH — The appeal of gliding across calm waters, lost in the scenery and tranquility of coastal surroundings, has become a fast-growing recreational activity for many, a sport for some and a business venture for a few.
Paddle boarding is a hybrid between surfing and kayaking and has become a hit on oceans, lakes and rivers across the United States, because it is easy to learn.
With roots in the Hawaiian Islands, stand-up paddle boarding has been around since the 1960’s but made its way to Florida in recent years.
Captain Justin McGee, co-owner of Paddle Out Adventures, located at slip No. 57 in the Clearwater Beach Marina, 25 Causeway Blvd., said “Within an hour of practice most people can manage to make their way through calm waters.”
While most paddle board businesses operate from a waterside stand, paddle boarders are limited to congested areas that mix with motorized boat and personal watercraft activities.
After watching paddle boarders and motorized boaters attempt to co-mingle in the waters of the Intracoastal Waterway, McGee and partner and first mate Lori Acello, both avid paddle boarders, came up with the idea to offer a charter service catering to paddle board enthusiasts.
“We are the only private tour company of its kind in the area,” said McGee, who was a long time captain for the Little Toot Dolphin Cruise at the beach marina.
Paddle Out Adventures offers a charter service to remote locations in and around Clearwater Beach for a more serene experience from its 30-foot pontoon boat.
The charter can accommodate up to six paddle boarders and equip them with all the necessary gear — boards, light weight paddles, life vests and safety whistles — to enjoy their time on the water.
“We can take you out on a private charter, a mix and mingle cruise or any tour you can dream up to enjoy the best of Clearwater,” said McGee. The charter is also pet friendly.
The most requested tours explore the Mandalay channel and the upper parts of the Dunedin channel where paddle boarders can explore the lagoons and coves near Caladesi Island.
Tours on the Intracoastal Waterway and along the shoreline of the Gulf of Mexico are popular, too, he said.
“Some beginners,” McGee explained, “like to practice getting the feel of the board from the shoreline.” So, McGee and Acello anchor the pontoon boat just off shore in shallow water or near non-restricted islands so first time boarders learn how to manage the board in knee-to-waist high water.
And it doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or an expert. “We’ll make sure you have a good time,” said Acello, who is also working on her captain’s license.
The private outing also combines paddle boarding with sunset cruises and ecological tours, such as dolphin, manatee and bird watching.
The hours of operation are flexible. “You can book a trip around your schedule,” Acello said.
The pontoon boat offers a covered area to take a break from the sun, a large cooler to hold food and beverages, and a restroom.
Stand-up paddle boarding uses a larger and wider padded type of surfboard that floats better, which makes it easier to establish balance. Coupled with the use of a single blade paddle, the boarder stands up and with a sweeping stroke of the paddle propels forward. A board can range in price from $500 to around $2,000.
Stand-up paddlers say they enjoy the exercise and a better view than that afforded paddlers on canoes or kayaks. And there are more paddle boarders this year than ever, silently slicing through Sunshine State waters alongside the 870,000 registered recreational motorboats.
For information about Paddle Out Adventures, go online to www.paddleoutadventures.com or call (727) 223-4900.