New President of the Industrial Arts Center of Gulfport Owen Pach is a 30-year veteran of the American Glass Movement. Though his work can be found in museums, corporate and private collections around the world, and work that has also been featured on Extreme Makeover: Home Editions, his passion and focus has always been to teach. United by a passion for the industrial arts and a belief in arts accessibility for all, he and a team of artists as instructors now helm a range of classes at Industrial Art Center of Gulfport. Teachers train novices and advanced students—some ranging from 5 years old to 85 years old—in specialized areas such as glass casting, glass fusing, sculptural welding and forged steel, and metal pipes to affirm the practical applications of blowing milk bubbles.
The turquoise waters lap gently at the white sand of St. Pete Beach, the serene setting disrupted only by guests dashing wildly into the waters, toting long standup paddleboards and giant smiles. They hurl themselves onto the boards before scooting around on the water’s surface, often to race one other or in attempts at overcoming their innate lack of flippers. Guests who rent boards from Saltwater Kite & Paddle—located mere steps from the water—can get right into the water, with no need for transportation to a beach. In addition to providing boards—which may also be purchased after rentals—the aquatic experts lead group lessons in standup paddleboarding, surfing, and kiteboarding to help enthusiasts get the most out of their beach-going experiences.
Coral growing in brightly hued clusters. Translucent jellyfish floating past verdant, undulating seaweed. Schools of black bar soldierfish swimming in unison during their morning roll call. These are just a few of the myriad sights students at Gulfport Dive Center can see during their aquatic expeditions. Owned by a family of avid divers, the center gathers a community of fledgling sub-aquanauts to explore the waterways of the Sunshine State, whether the staff is training them during classroom sessions and open dives or equipping them with gear from Aqualung, Sherwood, and Akona.
Ironmon Watersports' professional Flyboarders harness the gushing power of the Flyboard to take newcomers into the sky. Powered by torrents of water, the Flyboard propels its users into the sky or through the water like a dolphin with a jetpack, with users able to control its movements much the same way the fictional Iron Man does in his suit. Over the course of each session, one of Ironmon Watersports' staff snaps shots and video of riders for future reminiscing.
From the moment seasoned nature tour guide Kurt Zuelsdorf first dipped his paddle into Clam Bayou, he knew the mangrove estuary would be the right place to set his kayak tours. But there was a catch—a garbage dump’s worth of rusting shopping carts and waterlogged plastic bags was strewn about the waterway. Undeterred, Kurt hit upon a clever cleanup strategy: people could launch his fleet of kayaks for free, so long as they toted a bag of garbage out of the bayou with them.
Numerous grants, media attention, and awards later, Kurt’s waterway cleanup program has reached its final stages. Now, kayakers and paddlers can freely navigate the mangrove channels, nabbing sights of manatees, herons, and tugboat captains hopelessly lost in the mangroves. An avid nature enthusiast who has kayaked waterways from Wisconsin to Florida, Kurt prizes Clam Bayou, citing the diversity of wildlife along the one-mile stretch. “It’s not like the zoo,” he says. “Every time you hit the water, it’s a completely different experience.”