Paddleboarding with Beach Road Watersports
Having lived here on the Suncoast for more than two decades, I know that there is no better place to be the first week of fall than on the water. And one of the most beautiful bodies of water in the area is the Lemon Bay.
The smallest of the five Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves, it’s long, narrow and shallow, which has created a diverse network of mangroves, marsh grass and seagrass meadows. All of those features combine to make it an ideal place to glide across in a kayak or on a paddle board, since there are said to be more than 150 species of birds, 100 species of invertebrates and 200 species of fish in the bay.
Beach Road Watersports is located right on Lemon Bay, on Beach Road, so I rented a standup paddleboard and signed up to tour the bay with a small group led by Pat Kessing, a longtime ecologist and guide.
I had never before been on a paddleboard, so I was a little skeptical of my ability to successfully remain vertical on it. Pat
Jennierose Saunders paddles alongside the Lemon Bay mangroves.
PHOTO BY PAT KESSING
and Marni, a visitor from Colorado, rode in kayaks for the tour and Pat’s niece Jennierose, like I did, rode a paddleboard. She promised me that if I fell off, she would jump in, too. I assured her she would be taking a swim at some point.
Pat gave a brief demonstration about how to stand up on and paddle the board (it’s a lot easier than you would think) and we were off. At first, I was a little unsteady, as I tried to find the center of the board and balance myself. But I soon figured it out and was able to keep up with Pat’s leisurely pace.
He was a fantastic guide, and was full of information about the bay and all the various plants and sea life we were seeing. At one point, we were still and watching a dolphin
in front of us. All of the sudden, my board lurched and I almost fell off. I thought I had just “spazzed out,” as my teenage son would say, but then I looked behind me and the dolphin was now back there. The little stinker had swum under me and bumped my board.
A little later, I actually did fall off — I was messing around and rocking back and forth on the board. Truly, though, I was happy I did. It felt wonderful to be in the cool water.
We paddled around for about three hours, dipping around mangroves, getting out onto sandbars to look for shells and just generally having great conversations. All three of my tour companions were scientists, so I was out of my league, but loved hearing their perspective on everything.
On the way back to our launch site, I was yapping so much to Jennierose that we lost track of where we were and had paddled too close to the main thoroughfare of the Intracoastal Waterway, a big no-no. But Pat called us back over to where he was before anyone got hurt. Thanks, Uncle Pat.
I had such an excellent time paddleboarding and it was such a fantastic workout, that I’m now considering buying one for myself. I had to promise Pat that if I do, I will try to stay out of shipping lanes as much as possible.
Debbie Flessner writes the Live Like a Tourist column for the Sun newspapers. You may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.