The restaurant is like so many along Florida’s east coast; well worn and used like an old Florida favorite, a shoe that fits the community to a comfortable “T.” You’re welcome here like family, a place to launch your boat, join a tour, rent a kayak or fish from the pier. Then slip inside the old weather worn building and enjoy a meal. This is JB’s Fish Restaurant and here is where we met our tour with East Coast Paddle. We’d be SUPing the Mosquito Lagoon on the inland waterway, heading right into the Canaveral National Seashore.
Along the way we’d spot birds and jumping fish, dolphins at play and a mamma manatee and her baby. It was a beautiful day in a beautiful part of Florida, and we’d enjoy it not just with East Coast Paddle, but on one of their own built SUP’s.
SUP, or Standup Paddleboarding, is one of those sports that seemed to have come out of nowhere. You’d see celebrities in People Magazine doing it in some tropical locale, but until the last few years, not many other places. In the time we’ve lived in Florida (about two and a half years) we’ve seen it grow from the kind of thing locals know about to the kind of things visitors seek out when on vacation.
Outfitters such as East Coast Paddle have created a way to enjoy the sport, see Florida, and not have to know a lick about it when you start.
JB’S Fish Camp and Restaurant is in the New Smyrna Beach area, along Florida’s east coast. As the road comes to nearly a close, dead-ending into Canaveral National Seashore, you’ve entered a part of Florida where homes out number businesses, trees out number homes, and the wildlife takes over. It’s a beautiful area. Those in-the-know come here to partake. This isn’t overrun, though there are plenty here, it feels much more “local” than “tourist.” That means you’re getting to the heart of why so many love Florida.
East Coast Paddle does not maintain a store or such here, but rather launches here, pulling up on their purpose-made boat to meet their tour group. You might be with your own group or join another, as we did on our day. A group of mom’s out having a mommy weekend, enjoying time together.
Cheryl and Todd were our guides this day, Cheryl the owner with her husband, creating East Coast Paddle a handful of years ago, but on this day, it would seem they’d been doing it all their lives. From their professional demeanor to the purpose-built boat, they not only know what they are doing, the execute it to perfection.
Todd is the captain for our journey, a naturalist who can tell us of the flora and fauna, as seemingly at home on this boat and these waters as any corporate type up in Chicago or New York. His rugged, outdoors-men looks and his keen sense of place and self betray a man in love with his life and the perfection he has found in what he does.
East Coast Paddle isn’t an outfitter to leave things to chance. They take every aspect of the tour into account, from the SUP boards they actually build (for sale and tours) themselves, to the boat they created for these waters and waterways to their knowledge of the places where you’re going to venture.
Mother Nature is in charge here, but they work with her well, knowing her best and safest locations, picking out the best spots based on tide, wind, and weather, and having the boat on hand at all times. No worries: they take you and the boards to a launch point, get you on the land and trained, then off you head, SUPing your way past brown pelican and spying dolphin dorsal fins. The boat is always nearby, should you need it for any reason, with
Todd and Cheryl taking photos of your day. They’ll be yours to keep and cherish and you’ll be grateful for have them for the memories.
Our day started at JB’s where we met our growing group, then boarded the boat. This time of day we couldn’t get back into the mangroves and trees, so they took us into the National Seashore and let us off on a beach. We’d climb to the top of the “hill” through the trees, up a boardwalk that is newly crowned, soon to overlook the whole area. Its a somewhat long hike, but easy, and the view from the top is spectacular. You’re above the trees and overlooking the whole area for an amazing panorama.
When you return, the boards are all laid out, ours along the shoreline with Todd ready to help us onto ours. Cheryl talks us through the style of boarding and what to do and not do. We’ve done this once before with SUP Eco Adventures, farther down this coast, so its a repeat, but one we’re glad to have. It’s been a number of months and the reminder is just enough to make one comfortable.
This is a truly easy sport, but still, you’re standing on a board on water, so you want to get it right.
Once we’re talked through it, we each climb on, get a push out and soon we’re standing.
This really is an easy thing to do, but if you get tired or like me, have an injury, you can sit at any point and enjoy just as much.
We took this trip back up the coast, past JB’s and into a cove. Along the way birds swooped, we enjoyed the peace – Hint: Laura and I lingered at the back much of the time and enjoyed the peacefulness of the area – and at one point, again spotted the dolphins we’d seen out our outbound trip.
Within a moment’s time, they surfaced directly next to Laura, only inches from her and three feet from me; a spectacular moment we’ll never forget. You’re in their world and it felt like it, part of their lives and their journey.
The cove is a quiet one, mostly, with a few homes here and an open feeling. Its apparently known for manatee who come here and on our visit, we were rewarded with a mom and her baby. You’re not allowed to harass them and at times I felt like we were too close, but we just sat on our boards and waited. The ladies in the group floated off to talk while Laura, Cheryl and I watched them surface, eat and enjoy a quiet day together. There ended up being more people on land watching, but by the time we left, it seemed as though there were twenty
people floating around, watching the show. Lucky for the manatee, they not only seem to not at all mind, but they have a boat lift and boat to hang out under and not be disturbed too greatly.
Leaving the cove we re-boarded the boat – from our SUPs. At first I was nervous; I was not about to be the one to fall in. This is where the purpose-built boat really shows its stuff, as you guide the SUP between its pontoons, get to your knees and as you lift yourself up, Todd helps you aboard. Soon you’re standing on deck and he’s raising your SUP up and into its rack. The return home starts when everyone is aboard, and within minutes we were pulling back to the docks at JB’s.
The journey was complete, but the memories last still.
We enjoyed lunch at JB’s and following our time on the water, loved the beverages, the cool AC, and the time to talk over fish and salads.
East Coast Paddle is an excellent outfitter for your day of SUPing. If you’re interested, check them out. They are also expanding to other launch areas, so find out about that as well. We’ll share photos here and in at least one other post, but see them online for all your questions.
And if you’re interested in buying an SUP, check them out for that as well. Their SUPs are earth friendly and we loved the ones we used. They’re built for comfort, ease of use, purposeful for whatever type of SUPing, and long years of enjoyment.
You can stand or sit on an SUP.
I’ve got a foot Stress Fracture, so standing on it in one
position for a long time is painful. I sat and let it rest,
even note I have it up on the required life jacket.
Either way you do it, you’re SUPing and enjoying the beauty.
Photo courtesy of East Coast Paddle
Photo courtesy of East Coast Paddle
Photo courtesy of East Coast Paddle
Enjoy a beautiful day on the water, become one with nature,
discover Florida’s beauty, enjoy SUPing, and
have some time by yourself, with loved ones and friends.
That’s what SUPing and East Coast Paddle are all about.