Come Here Often?

Mike Vannucci / Casey Alixandra

You’ve heard of work from home, now get ready for Mike Vannucci’s work-from-beach lifestyle.

For the last 16 years Mike Vannucci’s life has been by the shore—never confined in a room, instead only surrounded by open skies and white sand.

Before 2005, Vannucci’s work consisted of roofing houses and putting up dry wall. When his back started to disagree with the profession, he set out to look for a side job. It was when his friend brought up the idea of buying a beach business that inspired him—even after his friend changed his mind.

“I’m like, man, that sounds like a cool job. At the time, there was no one on the beach,” said Vannucci. “I took a chance on it. If anything, I thought it was going to be a weekend business. It turned out to be full time.”

Thus, East Coast Sports Rentals began. In the beginning, all Vannucci had was a hut, wooden chairs and no definite prices. It was only when his first customer arrived that things became real. 

“So, I’m standing there trying to figure things out, and this guy walks up to me, and he goes, ‘How much for a chair for a couple of hours?’ … ‘I don’t know, five bucks?’” Vannucci said. “I was so happy to make that first five bucks.”

As the years went by, the beach access on 15th Avenue North only grew, attracting more and more people to enjoy its splendors. 

“Before, it wasn’t much of a tourist destination,” said Vannucci. “Every year it gets busier and busier. There’s definitely a big difference.”

Vannucci’s interest also grew beyond the business. Now he keeps an eye out on the beach and the people residing there. What Mike never intended, though, was that one day he would save one of their lives.

“I was sitting in the dunes, and I heard kids screaming. It was a couple kids, they were farther out in the ocean, and I thought, I think those kids are in trouble,” he said. 

Immediately, Vannucci grabbed his long paddle board and ran to the noise. There in the water, too deep for some, he found two exhausted children.

“I ran out there as fast as I could and threw the boy on because he was bigger. They were clearly drowning. Then this other surfer saw what was going on and threw the girl on. Then we both paddled them in,” Vannucci said. “It was kinda cool to save somebody,” 

Working at the beach has had its moments of stress, but for Vannucci his biggest reoccurring hassle is the thunderstorms.

“It gives me anxiety bigtime. It’s super busy, you know, the sky is turning black, and you’re looking at radar—I get nightmares about it,” said Vannucci. “It’s the worst part of the job. Nothing like, all of a sudden, here comes this wind and the thought of 60 umbrellas flying around.”

Occasional rough weather comes with the job, but for Vannucci, it just makes him more appreciative of those clear sky days.

Today, Vannucci has over 200 beach chairs for rent and manages a full staff. His job requires tending to guests’ needs and lifting and moving chairs, all while under the hot Florida sun. When he’s not working, he enjoys paddle board surfing at any opportunity. 

Vannucci is at East Coast Sports Rentals every day of the week, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Whether the day is sunny or rainy, slow or busy, Vannucci will be there, happily by the waves. Then, when the sun is going down, he can look forward to the next day while collecting his chairs.

“My favorite part of the day is the morning. Rolling out there on the beach, turning the four-wheeler off, dropping the sets [of chairs], and all you hear is the waves crashing on the shore,” said Vannucci. “It’s nice and quiet. Peaceful.” 

Not many can say their work revolves around sunny skies, sunblock and distributing beach boards. But one thing is certain, Vannucci might have one of the best office views in all of Jacksonville.