The gentle clap of paddles against the water and the tenor thrumming of jet-ski motors drift from Adventure Water Sports. On waverunners, diminutive sailboats, and kayaks, patrons spread out across the surf and around Estero Island, their eyes peeled for dolphins and other fauna at all times. The shoreline falls back in quiet bays and estuaries, where little fish dart among tangled knots of mangrove roots. Instructors certified by the United States Coast Guard demonstrate the operation of vessels, lead tours, and knock down sand castles lacking proper fire exits.
Owner and operator Shawn can trace his family's roots in the local waterways back seven generations. His deep love of the water led him to launch Native Rentals, which conducts eco-friendly paddle tours, and create the Surfer Bus, a renovated school bus that brims with kayaks, surfboards, and any equipment needed for tours on the go. His eco-tours explore the Robinson Preserve, Neal Preserve, and the Anna Maria Sound aboard single or tandem kayaks, standup paddleboards, and bikes, all of which let guests test their muscles without the exorbitant fees of going through Poseidon's booking agent.
Situated in the midst of a wildlife-rich preserve on the Lee County coast, Kayak Excursions, based at Bunche Beach, doles out an arsenal of paddleboards and kayaks for fishing, sightseeing, or motorized water-skimming. Guides lead sightseers out on three-hour tours that pass by lush mangrove forests, salt flats, sandy beaches, and sirens holding band practice in secluded coves. The densely populated waters of southwest Florida open their cache of sea candies to wide-eyed fishermen, who can paddle out to cast lines for snapper, cobia, and sea trout with or without a professional guide. Kayak and paddleboard rentals are available by the half-day, full-day, or week.
The instructors at Sweetwater Paddlesports must have a natural affinity for the water and have nurtured passions for sports ranging from surfing and wakeboarding to boating. Drawing from these combined experiences, they've channeled their efforts almost entirely toward introducing others to standup paddleboarding. In group or private lessons, they introduce basic techniques for balance and maneuvering and what to do at a red light. To supplement this aquatic-sports training, Sweetwater also coordinates on-water standup-paddleboard yoga and fitness classes. The company's fleet—which can be picked up or delivered for rental—includes standup paddleboards by makers such as Tahoe and One World and kayaks by Jackson and Feel Free.
The newly opened True Blue Water Sports on Tamiami Trail North brings aquatic gear, water-sports lessons, and peaceful paddle tours to the Naples area. Kiteboarding advocate and co-owner David Peterson opened up his laid-back shop to pique the interest of out-of-town water-sports seekers, and his two-hour eco tour does just that with its personalized instruction and open-water demonstrations. Paddlers mount buoyant boards and glide through the Gulf Coast’s resplendent waters, learning about the mangroves that surround them and avoiding the urge to give up all worldly possessions and set up shop as a backwater soothsayer. Instructors demonstrate the mechanics of the stand-up paddle tour before and during the tranquil ride, giving guests ample time to reacquaint themselves with their estranged centers of gravity.
After plans were revealed to build a road through Rookery Bay in 1964, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida formed to protect the region's environmental interests. This small group of concerned citizens mobilized the community to halt the project, protecting the land, water, and wildlife that makes southwest Florida beautiful. Today, the group continues that work on a larger scale, promoting clean water in the Everglades, treating and releasing injured animals, and protecting sea turtle hatchlings.