Tag Archives: florida

Gear Review: LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

Lifestraw Personal Water Filter

Vermont SUP Lifestraw personal water filter
Lifestraw Personal Water Filter – Photo Credit: JTJ Photography

I had seen the Lifestraw Personal Water Filter online for several years and had always wondered if it worked. The most important & essential item whenever planning a paddling trip is water. At over 8 pounds per gallon its the heaviest gear you need to bring. While paddling, you have an abundance of water all around you but it’s not safe to drink and can get you very sick if you do so. Upon getting my Lifestraw Personal Water Filter I quickly noticed the lightweight and small footprint of the product made it an easy choice for backpackers and paddlers. We tried out this product in the sunshine state of Florida over the past few weeks and concluded that it’s a great product to have with you in the absence of clean water and as a backup. I will always try to bring as much drinkable water with me as I can hold but this Lifestraw personal water filter offers a backup solution if you run out or something contaminates your water.


“LifeStraw is ideal for hiking, backpacking, camping, travel, and emergency preparedness. The straw-style filter design lets you turn up to 1,000 liters of contaminated water into safe drinking water.” -Lifestraw Website

Erin tests the Lifestraw Personal Water Filter on the Chassahowitzka River in Florida.
Erin tests the Lifestraw Personal Water Filter on the Chassahowitzka River in Florida. – Photo Credit: JTJ Photography

We first took the Lifestraw to the Chassahowitzka River in Homosassa Florida. There are many different natural springs pushing out from the Limestone ground, including the crystal clear Seven Sisters Springs, where we stopped to take photos and test it for the first time. The 2 oz. weight and 9 inch size allowed me to keep it right in my Stohlquist PFD zipper pocket.

Lifestraw easily fits into your PFD pocket.
Lifestraw easily fits into your PFD pocket. – Photo Credit: JTJ Photography

Erin, an author and contributor to Vermont SUP, posed for a few photos. “I didn’t think it was working at first but once the Lifestraw was saturated it seemed to flow through at a comfortable rate and I could get several full mouthfuls before I had to take a breath.”

The Weeki Wachee River looks clean but you never know.
The Weeki Wachee River looks clean but you never know. – Photo Credit: JTJ Photography

After using this product multiple times, I’m happy with how it performs. I didn’t get sick from the waters I tested it in, which is always a good thing. For a single use it’s great, easy to store and very lightweight. I wouldn’t notice it if I carried my gear in dry bags around dams or un-runnable rapids. Lifestraw has several other products that would be more suitable for a family camping for longer periods. These other products also say they filter our many viruses that the smaller personal filter doesn’t. I’m glad I have this water filter for our future paddling expeditions. I would recommend it to any adventurer looking to explore the unknown for multiple days if they are unsure of the availability of clean drinking water.

Lifestraw personal water filter
Chassahowitzka River Florida. – Photo Credit: JTJ Photography

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received LifeStraw Personal Water Filter for free from Eartheasy.com as coordinated by Outdoor PR in consideration for review publication.

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.


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

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.

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

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.


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.

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.

SUPing with Alligators!

We don’t have any gators in Vermont. In fact, we don’t have anything you have to worry about besides poison ivy; and that’s just a nuisance. Your first time out in gator habitat can be a bit scary. That fear is always in the back of your mind as you paddle through their territory. Here are a few tips to ease that fear and keep you safe.

  • We are higher on the food chain than gators. As you get closer, they will act defensively and slide into the water where they are the most comfortable.
  • Gators that have had less human interaction will slip under the water faster than gators that have seen a lot of humans.
  • Gators that have been fed may approach you looking for food. Be aware of these , they are the most dangerous. Never feed a gator, it adds to the problem. Ask locals if gators in the area have been fed.
  • Once you see a gator, observe from a distance. Never corner them and block off their escape route.
  • Never get in between a mother and her baby’s. She will attack just like any other wild animal.
  • Gators are more territorial during mating season, which begins in April.
  • Dogs can be a tasty treat for gators, so leave them at home; especially if your dog likes to swim in the water.

Don’t let the presence of alligators keep you away from the water. If you keep your distance, so will they!

Florida Gator


Sunrise orlando florida surf expo 2014
© 2014 – JTJPhotography.com

Last week Orlando, FL grew even bigger as the 2014 Surf Expo came to town. This huge vendor show is held twice a year at the Orange County Convention Center with all aspects of the summer action sports scene present like Surf, Wake, Kite, Apparel, Fashion, Resorts, Boats and of course SUP.

torch paddles crew
© 2014 – JTJPhotography.com

I was lucky enough to connect up with the guys from Torch Paddles to talk about their vision & passion for paddling. David Swanson, Buck Bailey, Johnny Quintana and Creighton Baird were stoked to talk a little bit about the new Torch Paddles for SUPs and Canoes.

Torch Paddles are based out of Salt Lake City, UT where they work hard to make unique and functional products. Buck Bailey continues saying “Our manufacturers are based out of Salt Lake City, UT so it makes it really convenient for us to work with them on our current paddle line as well as new products for the future.” 

torch paddle night sup
Source: www.torchpaddles.com

Where is the one place you would want to go with the Torch to paddle and When?

“If we could go and paddle anywhere in the world it would have to be one of the bioluminescent bays out in the Bahamas & Caribbean. We’ve been wanting to do that for 2 years now. You asked me when I want to do it…next week, we leave on Monday. I wish the cruise was already booked. – Creighton

What’s the coolest place you’ve paddle with the Torch?

“Ohhhh, I’m not sure I’m allowed to say it…but…um…we were at [the] Crater Lake area, it’s a 2,000 ft deep lake with some of the clearest water I’ve ever seen.  You could see about 60 feet down with our paddles, so that was pretty awesome. ” – Buck

torch paddles sup vermont crater lake
Source: www.torchpaddles.com

“My favorite place to paddle with the Torch is honestly anywhere within 10 minutes of my house. You get home from work and the lake or river is right there. It’s just something fun and relaxing that you can do into the night.”  – Creighton  

Why a Torch Paddle over a regular paddle?

“A lot of people out there paddleboarding and more people are beginning to go out night paddling. Going night paddling with the Torch just makes sense. It lights up everything underneath you, the rivers, the fish, the coral. Anything underneath your board, you can see. It makes for a fun and unforgettable experience.” – Creighton

torch paddles led under water
Source: www.torchpaddles.com

What does have Torch Paddles have in store for the future?

“This type of paddle is new to the industry and hasn’t really existed before the Torch. Now we just need to get more people out there paddling so more people see it, to cause more intrigue. As for the future…. I wish I could tell you what’s next with Torch and our products. We have some big ideas in the works, but you’ll just have to wait patiently like everyone else, Ha Ha” – Creighton 

torch paddles 24 hours
Source: www.torchpaddles.com

After broswing their website I found out they started Torch Treasure. I love this idea! Its simple…

  1. Paddle around with the Torch
  2. Search for the treasure hidden all around the West
  3. Find the loot and celebrate!!!

Click Here to visit the Torch Treasure website and start your treasure hunt.

torch treasure 2
Source: www.torchpaddles.com