Push Away the Screen-Stand Up Paddleboarding

I had the amazing opportunity to take my gang stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) this week. It was something that I was really looking forward to doing, probably even more so than my kids.

Growing up in Venice, and attending Eckerd College for my undergraduate degree, I spent a LOT of time on and in the water. Heck, I even have degrees in Marine Biology. I love the water and all of its unique life forms.

Manatee Paddle in Crystal River invited a group of bloggers up for a "test run." Set to open to the public on June 1st, they wanted to make sure that they had worked out any kinks, etc., before hosting large groups of people.

Originally I was supposed to paddle with my husband, and our three kids. On Thursday night James announced that he had to work on Sunday morning (he's in IT, so this sort of thing happens a lot...code deploy) so I went in to panic mode! How would I fit 3 kids on ONE paddle board? Thankfully a plea through Facebook yielded two willing participants and the day was saved!!

We arrived at Manatee Paddle at 8:15am. The trio were very excited! This board seemed so big, I was sure this was the type we'd be paddling on!!

The other bloggers quickly arrived and we drove down to the launch area.

Kids under 16 need to wear a life jacket at all times while on the water. Being a water family, I had no issues bringing our jackets and complying with this requirement and would have brought them for my gang regardless. Here is my trio looking at all the boards. I quickly learned that the suplove boards were for the single riders, and the yellow and green boards were for the double riders and/or folks who wanted a bit more stability.

I let Ronin pick our board and he quickly chose a green board and after a quick introduction on how to hold the paddle and stand on the board, our board was put in the water and we were put to the test! Could I stand up on it? Would I be able to balance? Would Ronin be able to balance? Would we tip over?? But it was easy. I started on my knees, and popped right up. No problem at all. The only issue was where to put the paddle when I was standing up, so one of the dudes took it and in the photo below you see him handing it back to me.

A few trips around the lagoon and a brief meeting to discuss our plan, we were off to Three Sisters Spring! What did we have to discuss? The weather. While it was a beautiful sunny day, the wind was gusting around 14mph on our way out, but it was on our backside. Our guide, Wes did let us know that on the way back it was likely to be stronger, and it would be a headwind,  but we collectively decided that WE WERE GOING FOR IT. Wes had a cooler of water and G2 so we'd be plenty hydrated.

Ella rode with my friend, Christy who I've known for years from the gym. Haley rode with fellow blogger Chrissy's, sister.

The paddle over to Three Sisters Spring was quite uneventful. We chatted, and we laughed over this crazy swan boat!

Then we all had a collective gasp when we entered the spring area. I took this photo and it truly was even more beautiful than the picture shows!


I love how the water and Ronin's hair sort of play off each other.

This is where we were supposed to see manatee's but we didn't see any. Frown But as a marine biologist I knew that was a possibility and I wasn't that disappointed. That's how nature works. Ronin had fun snorkeling around. Haley and Ella each went in for a quick dip, but at 72 degrees, the spring water was a bit too cold for them. Ronin can handle it better than they can. You can see in this photo Ronin and Haley swimming around, but Ella is being warmed up by Christy.

Some of us had packed snacks for our kids, and my guys enjoyed orange slices and pretzels and some yummy Simply Snackin' chicken jerky.  We discussed paddling over to a different spring to see if we could find manatees but after an emergency arose and we realized the winds were picking up, we decided to head back.

Our paddle back was NO JOKE! We had 16mph winds, and a cross-current. We had many people lay on their stomachs and use their arms to paddle because it was more efficient for them than using the paddle. It seemed for every stroke I took forward, I took 2 strokes back. At one point I seriously thought of jumping in the water and swimming, pulling the paddle board (and Ronin) behind me. But again, the current was strong and I wasn't sure if I jumped off the board if I'd be able to get back on, so I made the educated decision to remain on and just paddle through it. It was during this time (and discussion with Ronin...should I jump, or should I stay??) that I noticed a manatee fluke!! I took us off course and we paddled over to see the manatee. It was the only one that we saw on the trip and it was well worth taking us off course and all the extra hard work to bring us back on course...my boy loved it. I decided to drop to my knees to reduce the drag caused by my height and I gained control over the paddle stroke and started to make some progress!

We finally arrived back on shore and I looked at my heart-rate monitor and BAM! SUP'ing is a workout!!

We had a great time with Manatee Paddle and would certainly go back again. It was an amazing experience and  I am so glad I got to share with my children and fellow bloggers. And a special thanks to Christy and Patty for coming along and paddling with my daughter's. We all really appreciated it!

I'm also happy to report that I did not fall off the board once. And every time Ronin jumped off (in the spring; with my permission, he was a very good boy) I was able to get him back on the board without issue. The equipment was well taken care of. My only recommendations would be that they bring along a first aid kit including Benadryl, and it might not be a horrible idea to have a jon boat following along...just in case.

You can follow Manatee Paddle on Facebook and on Twitter.


Have you ever been SUP'ing?? Did you love it? Did you feel you got a good workout??


Thanks to Chrissy from Loving Life for some of the photos.

**Disclosure** Manatee Paddle provided me and my family a gratis experience in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own.

Push Away the Screen-Busch Gardens

It's no secret that the trio and I L.O.V.E Busch Gardens. I've been taking them since they were babies, and we all know the park like the back of our hands. We go every opportunity that we can.

This year Busch Gardens is helping to push away the screen by implementing a new campaign: getting your family together, getting outside, and getting active!! Those three things are the driving factors of our family, and when Busch Gardens offered us the opportunity to come and explore the park during Spring Break, we jumped on the chance! We had hoped we'd be able to make it over to the Easter exhibit, but the park was PACKED, so we weren't able to do that part, but we did explore some new (to us) areas of the park that we haven't done in quite a long time! My son has special needs, so he is eligible for a special needs pass that allows us to not have to wait in lines for the rides. If the wait is long, we get a fast pass to come back at a designated time, so we wait like everyone else...just not in a line.

There are some things that we do in a specific order though, and we kept to that tradition.

Stop 1: Cheetah Hunt to get our time for the Fast Pass.

Stop 2: Treat for the kids. Treat is ALWAYS a Churro.

Stop 3: Beer. Trio gets their treat, mama gets hers. Since I'm gluten free I had a Woodchuck Cider. It was SO GOOD

Stop 4: The skyride. And we get a round-trip and come back and it's usually time for our Cheetah Hunt ride!

Stop 5: But not this time...because of the crowds at the park, we still had some time before our turn on the Cheetah, so we went and explored Egypt. It's been a long time since we've looked at King Tut's tomb, but it was cold outside and Haley knew a lot of interesting facts about the Boy King, so off we went! And yes, I was so cold that I wore gloves and pulled out a Bondi Band to keep my head and ears warm. Wink

Stop 6: After Egypt we went and walked through The Edge of Africa. We saw lots of great animals, and the hippos were totally hauled out! We saw them from the skyride, but it was hard to see them from the exhibit.

Stop 7: CHEETAH HUNT!! We finally had our 90 minutes pass, so off we went for our favorite ride!! The girls rode together, and I rode with Ronin. That's typically how it goes, so no big surprise there! 

We're happy when we get on Cheetah Hunt and we're happy when we get off and ready to explore more of the park!!

Stop 8: Cutting back through Edge of Africa, and making a pit stop at Rhino Rally (thanks again Fast Pass!!) we came out at the hippo playground. The trio have loved this little playground since they were wee-ones, and they still love it now as elementary aged kids! 

Here is Haley at age 2 1/2 playing on the Hippo's!

Stop 9: After playing for a bit, we decided to stop in to the new animal care hospital. We've been in twice before and they have always had something cool going on, but today it was empty, just us and Emily the animal hospital guide. We stayed and chatted with her, and we told her all about how much Ella loves snakes, and wouldn't you know it...she called the herp caretaker and they brought in a boa just for us.

This snake was a female, full-grown, named Zeus. Surprised They named her before they realized he was she. Why they just didn't change her name to Hera, I have no idea. Wink

Stop 10: TIMBUKTU!! I love this land. Scorpion, Octopus, Sand Serpent, Merry-Go-Round, and Fest Haus, and then a quick jaunt up the "hill" to the bumper cars!!

This was the FIRST time all 3 were tall enough to ride the bumper cars WITHOUT me!! Ronin was just giddy with the freedom of driving his own car and chasing after his sisters.

A picture truly is worth a thousand words. This pictures makes my heart swell. Smile This is what Busch Gardens is all about!! Spending quality time with your family, watching your little ones explore and be active, and spending time outside.

If you are local, you should really invest in a Busch Gardens annual pass. There is so much to do at the park, and even though we are seasoned experts, we pick and choose what we are going to do, and no visit is ever the same.  The kids are still talking about what fun we had, and are excited to go back again soon, and so am I. Fun for the kids, fun for the mama. It's a win/win.

P.S. If I could just offer two bits of advice for Busch Gardens PR people...1) you need to have a Busch Gardens mom's panel that offers tips and tricks to making this a stress-free adventure and 2) you need to have a run through the park; a family fun run and a 10K would be perfect Wink


**Disclaimer: Busch Gardens provided me with passes to explore the park during Spring Break. All opinions are my own. And my opinion is that Busch Gardens is the BEST family friendly park in Florida, hands down. No tears were shed in the exploring of this park. And they serve beer."