In fishing the Florida Keys there’s a backcountry “slam” consisting of three species, an offshore “slam” and now, apparently, a paddleboarding slam. On a guided night-time stand-up paddleboard adventure last week, our group of seven plus two guides encountered manatee, shark and tarpon, which according to the tour leaders, is as good as it gets. A sleeping three-foot in-diameter stingray by the waterfront Lorelei Restaurant kicked off our adventure. The ray didn’t move even though we each quietly sauntered all around it on our paddleboards.
It was a calm, clear night with a sliver moon and twinkling stars which progressively became brighter as the night darkened. We relied on our specialized LED lighting system all around our boards to light up the seagrass flats and sandy bottom of Florida Bay beneath us. A lobster or two were the first sea creatures we saw as we entered the water at a public ramp around mile marker 82 bayside in Islamorada. Depending on winds and tides, Aquaholics Paddleboards based at the Postcard Inn at Holiday Isle will head northward toward the Hog Heaven bar and restaurant and glide oceanside, or put in where we did. We all were given comfortable life jackets to wear around our waists in the event of mishap and were told that going paddleboarding barefoot was the thing to do..
Our 11-year-old had to go in a kayak due to her age but she didn’t complain. She was one of the most enamored with the two-hour experience. The rest of us from 13 to 52 years of age enjoyed the balance and paddling challenge, several of us getting our paddles wet for the first time ever on a paddleboard. Despite being newbies, nobody fell in the water during our excursion.
Aquaholics owners, Tyler and Casey, are delightful hosts who, although they hail from Massachusetts, know their Florida Bay fauna, as well as good locations for where to see particular species. Tyler has sought to patent the LED and battery system that surround the boards, and said white lights tend to offer the best viewing opportunities.
Five-feet-long nurse sharks and tarpon ramped up our heartbeats, while slow-moving beefy manatees brought them back down. Our pace was steady and two hours passed quickly, due to constant movement and attention to what lurks beneath. Barracuda, sheepshead, snapper and minnows were easy to spot. After disembarking, we agreed the trip rated an A for awesome.
The night paddle excursion costs $60 per person plus tax; day tour is $60, or $50 per person for four or more. Additionally, renting paddleboards at the Postcard Inn at Holiday Isle beach go for $30 an hour of $40 for two hours. For more information, call 832-779-4253 or visit www.aquaholicadventures.com.