I am always looking to find adventurous things to do in Central Florida. When I first moved to the area I learned about something called paddleboarding. Anything that involves water automatically peaks my interest! When the opportunity came for Shelley and I to visit East Coast Paddle in New Smyrna Beach, I jumped at it. New Smyrna Beach is about 90 minutes northeast of Orlando just off of Interstate 4, so even if you are interested in taking one of the early morning sessions, getting there wouldn’t involve too early of a wake-up call. We were able to leave Orlando at 7 and made it with time to spare before our 9 am tour.
We took the Stand Up Paddleboard Eco-Tour. To start our tour, we met up with our guide, Cheryl and our captain, Todd, at JB’s Fish Camp on the Indian River and Mosquito Lagoon. Captain Todd pulled the boat right up to the dock and everyone in our group was able to climb right aboard. Cheryl was an excellent guide, telling us all about the areas we would be seeing and giving us some tips on what areas we needed to avoid. A large area of the river is actually used as an oyster farm for JB’s and there are oyster beds along the edges of the river too. Cheryl informed us that these were areas to be avoided.
On our way out to the drop off location, we had our first wildlife spotting. A dolphin! This wouldn’t be the last spotting either. Once we reached our destination, our boat was anchored and Captain Todd stepped out from behind the wheel to give us our lesson before we each got onto our boards. I am an experience canoeist so I picked up on the techniques that he explained to us pretty quickly. The most important part of the instructions included the positioning of the paddle in the water and the positioning of our hands and arms throughout the stroke. Once you figured that out you were good to go.
After our group pictures, we were all set out on the boards. Cheryl went out first so she could capture our first moments out on the board and Captain Todd got us positioned on our boards one at a time. The tour includes all the pictures they take of the day. Cheryl sends out digital copies within a day of your tour! When it was my turn, I climbed onto my knees on the board and paddled away from the boat. Once I was far enough away from the boat, Cheryl told me it was okay to stand up. That was the part I was most nervous about. Despite the fact that Cheryl insisted that these were the most stable boards that they produced, I was still nervous about my ability to balance. However, once I was on my feet, I was surprised at the stability of the board. I even rocked it a little bit, just to test it out of course!
I was actually the last person in our tour to get onto a board so as soon as I caught up to the group, we began our journey down the river. I was incredibly comfortable on the board. With the exception of a couple times when I put a bit too much effort into a stroke, I never felt like I was going to lose my balance.
One of my favorite things about Florida is the wildlife and the tour definitely delivered on that front. My favorite part of our tour was our visit to Manatee Cove. We were surrounded by manatees who kept sticking their noses out of the water. I admit that I was nervous that one of the manatees would try to surface right underneath my board, by I had nothing to worry about. The manatees were close but not right underneath me. After hanging out with the manatees, it was time to complete our tour and head back to the dock.
The tour we took is the best tour for beginners, however there are other tour options for beginners or more experienced paddleboarders. East Coast Paddle offers lessons, fishing and rentals. In addition, they provide Paddle Fit classes and Yoga on Water. I am definitely interested in the fitness classes that they offer. In addition to the services offered on a regular basis, they are willing to create a customized tour for groups. Just ask Cheryl about the bachelorette party that they planned during your visit!
East Coast Paddle not only provides tours and lessons, but they also make the boards in their own factory. After a morning out learning to paddleboard, Shelley and I were able to tour the factory. All the boards are made using AutoCad (Computer Aided Drafting) Software to design the boards and they use their own 3D Shaping machine to cut the boards out of the blanks. The boards are all airbrushed and finished in the factory to the specifications of each buyer.
I had a great time with Cheryl and Captain Todd during my first paddleboarding experience. They made the whole experience fun and relaxing, as well as a good workout. I look forward to visiting them again and, in the future, purchasing my own board so I can head out boarding every weekend! Make sure to visit their website and like them on Facebook. Also, don’t forget to visit our Facebook page to see our complete album of pictures from our visit.