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. 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.