Category Archives: Florida

TRIP PREVIEW: Everglades Florida Jan 2016

Just a Taste of the Everglades

We’ve been toying around the idea of paddling in the everglades for about a year now. We were too busy with work to go last year, but we finally got 3 days off to go explore. Without much more planning than loading the paddle boards, camping equipment and food, we made plans to meet our fellow paddlers in Chokoloskee and we headed south.

Erin checking in at the Visitors Center in Everglade City.
Erin checking in at the Visitors Center in Everglade City.

The first night we camped at the Chokoloskee Island Park. We must have had the last campsite in the place, because we just barely squeezed our two cars and tent onto the site. First thing the next morning, we headed over to the Visitor Center in Everglades City to find out what kind of back country permit we could get for just a couple nights. There was nothing within close range available for that night, so we secured a permit for the next night at Pearl Bay Chickee and spent the day meandering down to Flamingo.

Campsite in Flamingo Florida
Campsites at Flamingos campground.

We camped at Flamingo and woke up to pouring down rain. The radar was showing that the rain would stop around noon, so we waited it out. Good thing we didn’t pick a chickee any farther than 3.5 miles. Our original idea was to get out there, make camp and paddle some more. Instead, we played cards in the tent until it stopped raining and then headed straight to the chickee for the night.

everglades florida Hells Bay Canoe Trail Launch
JJ, Erin, Al & Donna at the Hells Bay Canoe Trail Launch

Upon arrival at the Hells Bay Canoe Trail Launch, we unloaded all our gear and set off into the mangrove tunnels. The tunnels were tight and narrow with lots of turns. As we progressed further, it felt like we were just twisting in circles through the maze of mangroves. Some of the turns were so tight, the 16 foot canoe that was with us almost looked pinned amongst the mangroves, and several times the stern person was left dragging through the spider webs that lined the mangrove branches.

Al & Donna maneuvering thru the tight and windy Mangroves.
Al & Donna maneuvering thru the tight and windy Mangroves.

Even though there were many turns, the trail was very well marked with white PVC pipes. A PVC pipe was located at every turn or just about the time you were feeling lost one appeared.

JJ's BIC SUP leading the way thru the well marked paddling trail Florida everglades
JJ’s BIC SUP leading the way thru the well marked paddling trail

As we rounded every corner we anticipated running into a gator, croc, snake or anything, but the cool temperatures kept the critters at bay, in fact all we saw on our paddle was an osprey. Even the bugs thought it was just too cold… so those stories of swallowing mosquitoes while paddling didn’t hold true for us, at least not until dusk.

JJ's BIC SUP leading the way thru the well marked paddling trail
Our first view of Pearl Bay Chickee

After just a few hours of paddling, we spotted our chickee and started unloading. We had reserved just half of the double chickee, but were lucky enough that we were the only ones out that night. The chickee was awesome, it had counters to cook on, a ladder on one side and stairs on the other as well as a handicap sized porta-potty. It was luxurious. Later on, I did read that this was the cadillac of chickees, and the only handicap accessible chickee in the everglades, so i suppose we can’t expect this in the future from the other chickees.

Pearl Bay Chickee everglades florida
SUPs tied up & Hammocks Setup.

We cooked up our dinner of summer sausage, beans and rice. Minutes after our stoves kicked on, a soft-shell turtle appeared out of nowhere. He circled our chickee for hours while trying to coax us to give him our scraps. He clearly had been fed by others in the past. He was fun to watch and as the sun sank down below the water, the mosquitoes came out of hiding. We quickly retreated into the safety of our tents and hammocks. We slept well as the bugs buzzed about and the water lapped at the chickee posts. There is truly nothing better than sleeping out in the middle of nowhere!

Pearl Bay Chickee Sunrise Clouds
Clouds loom as the sun rises over the Everglades

We awoke to some threatening clouds to the west, but decided it was probably just rain. We had a leisurely breakfast of eggs and bagels before packing up and heading back to our vehicles. We slowly made our way back through the mess of mangroves from the day before.

Hells Bay Paddling Trail everglades florida
Car’s packed up after our Everglades paddling trip.

Shortly after loading up our gear, the rain hit and we headed north and back to work. It was a short trip and it felt like we only got a small taste of the everglades. So, if you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to want more. And guess what, we want more! Stay tuned for the upcoming Everglades, top to bottom expedition, which will include a whole bag of cookies!

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Gear Spotlight: Otentik Sunshade

We meet up with Ella at Surf Expo this year and got to talking. She was working the Otentik booth with a really cool product. The Otentik Sunshade is a simple, lightweight and quick way to get out of the sun while enjoying the outdoors. I instantly thought of 100s of different occasions I could have used this sunshade while camping, paddling, relaxing at the beach or just in the backyard around the pool.

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Otentik is a young Israeli start up, specializing in developing innovative lifestyle solutions. One of our recent and most useful products we have come up with is Otentik’s Sunshade. The product was released in2011, with great success around the world. No doubt the best solution for the beach: fast and easy to set up, lightweight and the most efficient protection from the sun.

Otentik Sunshade beach 1

The Idea to develop Otentik occurred to us when we saw Parasol flying away on a windy afternoon at the beach. It took two years and several prototypes to find the ideal solution. The Otentik Sunshade’s user friendly design employs sand bags instead of stakes and can be used on any terrain. The sunshade is available in different colors, is light weight and easy to carry.

Otentik Sunshade river

The ease of use and versatility of this product lead to the development of the brand, Otentik. The Sunshade, and Otentik lifestyle, goes with us practically everywhere. It is a must have product for all the outdoors lovers. CLICK HERE to visit their website and read all about Otentik.

Otentik Sunshade sand bags

Otentik Sunshade easy set up

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Location Hot Spot: Rainbow River – Dunnellon, FL

This is one of those rivers that you can not miss. The Rainbow River bubbles up from its headsprings at Rainbow River State Park and winds 5.7 miles downstream before it flows into the Withlacoochee River. The crystal clear river is loaded with oversized fish and other wildlife that call this river their home. This is the fourth largest spring system in Florida producing 400-600 million gallons of water everyday.

Rainbow River KP Hole Put-In

There are three put-ins along this river. The first is at the Rainbow River State Park and costs $2 per person. This put-in has the longest walk to the water, requiring you to walk all the way through the park.

The second put-in is at KP Hole Park, which has bathrooms, changing rooms, a swimming area and a snack bar. The fee to put in here is $5 per person, but you can drive your SUP right up to the waters edge. From here you can paddle 1 mile upstream to the head springs and 1 mile back to KP Hole. From here, if you’re feeling adventurous you can paddle 4 more miles downstream to the Public Boat Ramp in Dunnellon.

The Public boat ramp requires no fee and is just a parking lot with a ramp. This is located on FL 484 dirctly across the river from Swampy’s Bar and Grille.

Over Under SUP Rainbow River

This is a beautiful river that a lot of people enjoy. It’s recommended to avoid the area of weekends and hot days because their is limited parking at all put in locations. On busy days the state park can reach capacity by noon. Go early, or go on slower days.

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DIY technique for those Over/Under water photos.

Ever seen a photo like this and assume its fake?

over_under_clark_little_photography
Photo Credit: Clark Little Photography (click photo to visit his website)

In a lot of cases it’s not, but it does require a bit of luck, creativity and the right equipment to capture scenes like these. I recently found a great article about how to create these half & half or over/under photographs.

ikelite-1_1.jpg.400x275_q85 Ideally you should buy a waterproof housing for your digital SLR with a dome front to get these type of photos. These waterproof rigs can cost anywhere from $1000 to $2500 and up. The larger the dome you have in front of your lens the less effect choppy and rough water will have on your image. I didn’t have the money to invest in something like this and so I had to find a different solution.

I found a website that had an affordable option to get your camera under the waters surface without putting it in a housing or in the water at all. The idea is simple… place the camera in a small fish tank and shoot through the glass while its held slightly under the waters surface.

The idea was simple enough so I decided to try it. I went to a local pet store and bought a 5.5 gallon clear glass fish tank. I first tested the tank by holding it into the water to make sure there wasn’t a leak. I decided to put a towel down inside the tank before I put in my camera to give it a little padding and keep it from banging around. I plugged my remote trigger into my Canon 7D and placed it in the tank.  Using the widest lens possible gives you the best angle of view and allows you to keep more in the frame.

chassahowitzka river the crack

A Short 30 minute paddle on the Chassahowitzka River in Homosassa Florida brought us to the top of Baird Creek and what locals call “The Crack”. We got off of our SUPs and started enjoying the beautiful clear water of the natural spring. I took out my fish tank and placed my camera setup in it. I started shooting immediately and realized while holding the tank I could angle it up or down to get the desired shot. Holding it lower down in the water and angling it up gave me a cool reflection of the waters surface.

Chass River Manatee Surface Water

This complete underwater effect gives the illusion of having a true underwater camera setup but my camera is still “naked” and without any real watertight housing.

chassahowitzka river the crack fish I then flipped my camera to the vertical position in the tank and wanted to try that Over/Under effect. It took a little practice but after a few test photos I got a few great shots.

3-up-of-Over-Under-The-Crack

This short Do-It-Yourself (DIY) project didn’t hurt my bank account and it got me experimenting with underwater photography. Thats the basics, so get out there and try this easy and inexpensive solution to getting some great underwater photographs.

Any questions about this article or how to build your own make sure you email us at: VermontSUP@gmail.com or stop by our Facebook page to see the latest.

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Gear Spotlight: La Siesta Hammocks at Surf Expo 2015

Last month at Surf Expo I caught up with Jessica Leasure, a sales manager for La Siesta, and she showed me their line up of hammocks, chairs and accessories.

LA SIESTA is a leader in south-american hammocks and hammock chairs. Made by hand in Colombia, Mexico and Brazil, the LA SIESTA brands and products are a gauge of quality and authenticity.

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La Siesta Booth Surf Expo Jan 2015

LA SIESTA has offices in Miami, Spain and Germany. It has specialised in the development, marketing and distribution of hammocks and hammock chairs since 1991. It was founded by Dorothee and Alexander Grisar and focuses on offering the best quality hammocks and hammock chairs while holding the highest standard in the respect of nature, environment and human interaction.

IMG_6098 Their product offerings are quite extensive and they have many different styles to choose from including the traditional hammock, a hammock with wood spreader bars, a lightweight travel/packable hammock and many accessories.  la-siesta-styles

La Siesta also has many products for kids & babies including smaller hammocks & chairs, a cool raindrop design hanging nests and an infant style hammock.

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Check out this cool video of the Travel Hammock being setup all around the world.

Visit their website to see all their products and colors.

Have cool photos of you relaxing in your La Siesta Hammock? Share them with us and we’ll feature it on our Facebook page. vermontsup@gmail.com

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Gear Spotlight: Bounce SUP at Surf Expo 2015

Have you heard of Bounce SUP?… Well if not then listen up!

Bounce SUP Boards
Bounce SUP booth at Surf Expo 2015

Erin from Vermont SUP was lucky enough to catch up with the Bounce crew at Surf Expo 2015 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida.

Bounce SUP Team Surf Expo 2015
The Bounce crew at Surf Expo 2015

James, Ty and the crew talked with us about their new board design incorporating a Hollow Thermal Composite  Technology or H-TCT.  We asked Ty, Why he came to Bounce after working for some of the top board company in the industry? and he replied:

“Bounce made a board for Surftech when I was there as a sales manager called the B-1 that was originally a 10’6″ and it was the most durable thing that we had ever seen. There are roto-molded products out there and a bunch of other things but this is something that’s patented and I really truly believe in, This is something completely different that is really revolutionized board construction. Its made in the USA and is really a no brainer for me.”

James goes onto say that,

“It’s really exciting because Bounce has a technology that no one else has. You go around in this industry and there’s many marketing stories that they try to differentiate like shapes, designs, patterns, deck pads and whatever but for board technologies this is a truly unique composite not only in the Stand-Up Paddleboard industry but with composites in general. What’s different is that we’re replacing the epoxy resin with a thermo plastic resin, in this case polypropylene. It gives us the best of both worlds. We have a true composite board, woven fiberglass with extra material in the areas you need more strength but with that different resin it elongates  When you hit a resin board it cracks. When you hit our board the resin expands and allows the fiberglass fibers to do what their truly supposed to do.

Bounce SUP baseball bat test
Bat test at Surf Expo 2015

What type of paddling does the Bounce SUP boards fall in?

“We’re not the race guys, We’re not the Surf guys. Those markets are extremely saturated but the Bounce SUP board are great for the rental markets, fleet markets, the everyday household board, the fun board or the board you dont mind your kids touching. We believe we have a unique solution that does an amazing job but dont just talk to me get out there and talk to one of our customers.” – James

You said you guys are based out of the USA?

“Manufactured 100% in Oceanside California, so we build every single board by hand that has ever touched the water.” -James

bounce SUP building
Photo from Bounce SUP Facebook page

Erin liked this board so much she is now the proud owner of her very own Super Cruiser Touring model with the H-TCT technology.

Erin in the Demo Pool with her new Bounce SUP
Erin in the Demo Pool with her new Bounce SUP
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Location Hot Spot: Weeki Wachee River, FL

Florida is known for its beautiful natural springs and crystal clear rivers. The Weeki Wachee River is one of those must see places in the state.

“The Seminole Indians named the spring “Weeki Wachee,” which means “little spring” or “winding river.” The spring is so deep that the bottom has never been found. Each day, more than 117 million gallons of clear, fresh 74-degree water bubbles up out of subterranean caverns. Deep in the spring, the surge of the current is so strong that it can knock a scuba diver’s mask off. The basin of the spring is 100 feet wide with limestone sides and there, where the mermaids swim, 16 to 20 feet below the surface, the current runs a strong five miles an hour. It’s quite a feat for a mermaid to stay in one place in such a current.” – WeekiWachee.com

Mermaid_Chelsea_web-700x700 Yes… you read correctly… Mermaids! Weeki Wachee Springs State Park is the only place in the world to see mermaids.
Click here to read more about the State Parks Mermaids. 

OK… Back to the paddleboarding. I put in at the state  park where the friendly staff at Paddling Adventures showed me the map and went over the rules of the river. I walked my BIC 12’6″ Wing down the crushed stone path and into the crystal clear waters of the river.  After pushing off I immediately began to see all kinds of fish and wildlife. Your not allowed to paddle all the way to the head springs so after a 300 yard paddle upstream I turned around and began floating with the swift 5 mph current.

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Even with the overcast day the water had a deep blue color and the bottom was easily visible. I had to turn around about 1.5 miles down to make it back before they locked the gate at 3pm. I’ll be back to paddle and make sure to give myself enough time to enjoy the 5.5 miles to Rodgers Park.

If you dont have your own board you can always rent one from SUP Weeki, a local business who rents and shuttles on the Weeki Wachee River.

Click the photos below to see more of the quick afternoon SUP on the Weeki Wachee River.

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What’s under YOUR board?

Since we’ve moved to Florida, we have found many new things underneath our boards. My favorite by far are the manatees. These gentle giants just love the warm water pumping out of the King’s Bay basin. Now that we’ve had our first frost of the year, they will be congregating and resting in our favorite paddling places.

BIC Wing Manatee

As a stand up paddleboarding, we have an advantage over kayakers when it comes to spotting these slow moving giants. We can see down into the water much easier and change our course accordingly.   Florida Manatees are an endangered species and are highly protected by state and federal law. Fines for harming and/or harassing these animals are hefty. Follow the guidelines below to stay out of trouble and help protect these slow moving mammals.

1. Practice Passive Observation. Do not initiate contact with manatees. They are curious animals, but the interaction must be their idea.

2. Do not disturb resting manatees. Reduce splashing and noise.

3. Keep an active watch. Wear polarized sunglasses to improve sight.  Look for snouts and footprints (swirling water).

5. If you see a manatee stop or slow down, do not chase or paddle over the manatee.

6. Paddle gently and on the surface while watching where you place your paddle.

For more information watch the US Fish & Wildlife Manatee Manners video for paddlers. Click here to watch.

Don’t be the guy below. It’s dangerous and could be considered harassing these protected animals. For more information contact us Here.

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