David Lane and his business partner started their sports-rental shop inside a cramped garage filled with surfboards, kayaks, and paddleboards—items they used for sports they practiced themselves. Lane’s favorite part of his job is “helping people participate in the activities I enjoy,” and his business has grown to a full-size store that stocks paddleboards, surfboards, and bicycles and leads guided excursions. Inside, displays house surfboards adorned with sunsets, beaches, and coconut trees hand-painted by a local artist, alongside similarly painted canvases to display at home galleries or hang on monochromatic surfers. The owners also deliver rentals free of charge to customers, dropping off surfboards at the beach, taking kayaks to watery trails, or delivering bicycles to cruise ships’ port of call for passenger day trips.
Additionally, the store offers excursions and lessons, including surfing lessons, guided kayak trips, and adventurous surf-fishing trips to hook ocean creatures from tarpon to 9-foot sharks, which the store has helped tag for a research project with NOAA Apex Predators Program.
Cocoa Beach locals know that it's rare to spot Bill Kowalik on dry land. The Puerto Rico–born seafarer is at home on the water, constantly surfing, kayaking, or leading tours across the Florida Space Coast. Bill’s as passionate about the environment as he is about watersports, enthusiastically exploring the area's diverse waterways while taking pains to leave the least impact on the protected waters. Along with his team of trained instructors, he leads individuals, groups, and families on kayak tours through lush mangroves and island channels, pointing out dolphins, manatees, and exotic birds.
While leisurely paddling along the Indian River, dolphins and manatees swim beside a kayak as a guide points out some of the 300 species of native birds soaring overhead. This is the kind of memorable experience that many customers have had during Island Time Kayaking’s two- to four-hour tours of Cocoa Beach’s waterways. The experienced team at Island Time Kayaking instructs future kayak captains on the basics before launching, so even those brand new to kayaking can partake in laid-back jaunts, which include stops at remote islands where guests can dip their toes in the sand and put seashells to their ears. Kayaking equipment and mermaid repellent are included, and sunset tours are also available.
Every instructor at Calema Windsurfing and Watersports knows his or her stuff, and not just because they all hold U.S. Sailing certifications. Each one has personally trained with Calema's owner Tinho Dornellas, a master instructor who also designed the first surf ski with John Byde, whose father later patented it. Dornellas knows water sports like the back of his hands?which he probably used to make whatever surfboard he's currently riding.
Dornellas started using fiberglass composites to shape his own kayaks, surfboards, and windsurfing boards in the 1970s, and he and his wife Susie (a former windsurfing student) have kept up with advances in the field. Today, for instance, the shop also rents standup paddleboards, riding a resurgence in the Hawaiian sport.
Calema is ideally located for just about any aquatic activity, except maybe kraken-fishing. The Atlantic Ocean stretches to the east, and the Banana River flows right by the store, letting kayaks and standup paddle boards float straight into waters shard by dolphins and manatees. Beyond gear rentals and instruction, Calema also hosts windsurfing races and the annual Calema Midwinters Windsurfing Festival.
Central Florida’s aqueous wonders become tangible during A Day Away Kayak Tours’ boating excursions, as guests explore diverse estuaries with manatees and dolphins often swimming a paddle’s length away. The eclectic tours immerse kayakers in a cornucopia of experiences, including bioluminescent nighttime paddles that reveal eerily glowing organisms and flashes of light as fish swim by and solder their underwater sand castles. Sunset tours present leisurely rosy-hued panoramas, and day tours give glimpses of gators and soaring kingfishers and ospreys. On other tours, groups stop to explore grass flats and dig for clams as wild turkeys and pigs spectate. Beyond the kayak, pontoons usher guests on eco tours on the Indian River, and guides lead fishing trips off Merritt Island in search of sea trout and mangrove snapper.
Tour guides from Palm Bay Kayaks direct visitors on the waterways of Turkey Creek, home to myriad animals, dazzling foliage, and some of the highest bluffs along a Florida stream. Kayakers are encouraged to bring cameras on their treks, to capture possible encounters with manatees, ospreys, alligators, turtles, and blue herons.