by ERIN THURSBY
I’ve kayaked before, but with Kayak Amelia I learned about a newer form of paddle boarding, got to try it out and appreciate the beauty of our brackish water. The First Coast’s many waterways, access to the ocean, and the river mean that there are plenty of places where you can have a water adventure. Kayaking is a relatively easy way to get some exercise, go outdoors, and have a low-risk adventure.
For the novice, the great part about Kayak Amelia is that they do a tutorial on land before the trip. You’ll learn the basics of the short stroke and how to turn, reverse and move forward. We started from Camp Alimacani and ended up at the Kayak Amelia grounds. It made things a lot easier because we went with the tide rather than against it. After a few strong strokes, I would often take a moment to coast and take in the scenery, watching a seahawk show off his moves, an egret hunting in the shallows or a mullet’s acrobatics.
Your chances of tipping in a kayak are pretty slim, unless you goof around. But it was our tour guide C.J.’s stand up paddleboard that caught my eye. When we stopped at a beach to explore and eat the cookies Kayak Amelia is famous for, he invited those on the tour to give it a try.
A stand up paddleboard, or SUP, looks a bit like a beefy surf board with fins on the underside. The user stands on the board and paddles using a long paddle with a scoop on only one end. The more you move forward by paddling, the better your balance (sort of like a bicycle: the more you pedal, the easier it is to keep your balance). The possibility of falling in the water is higher than it is on a standard kayak. I didn’t fall in when I tried it, but I didn’t try any of the more advanced stuff, like shifting my weight to the back of the board to make it go faster. That earned a lot of the newbie SUPers a dip in the drink.
C.J. led the tour, with tour guide Ray in the back rounding up the stragglers. Because C.J. was on a SUP, he was easy to spot and could see all of us from his position. Vantage point is one of the advantages the SUP has over a standard kayak.
Modern stand up paddleboarding has its origins in surfing. Hawaiian surfers in the 1960s would stand and use a long paddle to get them further out in the surf. Today’s SUPing is actually better done on calm, flat waters. It’s turned into a full-fledged sport with an online magazine and worldwide races.
Guided SUP tours at Kayak Amelia are available now ($50) if you want to try something new. I like both the classic kayak and the newer SUP. You can also have your own adventure by renting your own kayak. They’ll supply you with a map and tips on where to go if you ask.
The next time you lament the lack of things to do in the area, think about using a paddle and experiencing the First Coast’s waterways from your own human-powered floating vehicle. Find Kayak Amelia at www.kayakamelia.com or call them at 251-0016.
–Use sunscreen, including under your chin as the water does reflect sunlight.
–Pack a change of clothes. You can either leave them in your car or bring them with in a waterproof pouch.
–Bring liquid refreshment: water or a sports drink.
–Wear a hat. It’s helpful for shading, but make sure it is securely on your head because there will be a breeze.
–If you aren’t on a tour, buy a waterproof camera! The gift shop at Kayak Amelia sells a reusable waterproof film camera for about $12.