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.
Yamaha VX110 Deluxe waverunners zip through the glittering waves of Sarasota Bay, Anna Maria Sound, and the intracoastal waterways. The speedy and maneuverable vessels are ideal for adventurous types, although the expansive rental fleet at H2O Watersportz accommodates boaters who prefer all different paces. Compact CraigCat catamarans allow pairs to recline as they coast over ripples, and pontoon boats that seat up to 14 come equipped with gear such as radios and nautical maps that identify where to find the bay of Kool Aid. For more structured journeys, clients can opt for chartered fishing trips helmed by expert guides or tours of the local waterways, with stops at landmarks such as Egmont Key and dolphin and manatee gathering places.
Mark Toomey once helmed his own recruitment firm in Nottingham, England, on the outskirts of Sherwood Forest, but a disdain for damp winters led him to the sun-drenched beaches of Siesta Key. Since opening Robin Hood Rentals in 2009, Mark has persevered through what he calls "Florida's harshest winter in 30 years," during which temperatures teetered near the freezing mark. He equips visitors with rental land-based and aquatic craft that let them explore the area without having to saddle a horse or propose to a dolphin.
From its perch near the Jim Neville Marine Preserve, the company fits cyclists with a range of beach, mountain, and tandem bicycles; matches riders to a fleet of two-seat 49cc automatic scooters; and trains visitors to venture off on newer-model i2 LeanSteer Segways. They also let kayakers explore the local waterways from sunrise into the nighttime.
The crew at Kayak Valet has one mission: to get more people out and enjoying the local waterways and scenery via kayak or paddleboards. Since storing, hauling, unloading, reloading, and potty training their own kayaks can deter people from boating, the team sets up shop to cancel out such deterrents. They take care of nearly every task, bringing all equipment necessary for a leisurely paddle on puddles of all sizes right to the launch site. Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Manatee Counties are popular launch sites that the crew will pick up and deliver equipment to. Keeping the experience accessible, the shop rents only kayaks and paddleboards that can be piloted by anyone, experienced or not. Additionally, they give aquatic adventurers tips on paddling and safety techniques and sell new kayaks, paddleboards, and accessories.
Lazee Lizard opens up the Gulf, Tampa Bay, and Florida's myriad waterways to adventurers with its standup paddleboard and kayak rentals. In such vessels, explorers paddle blue waters to take in the sights, get in a workout, or spot manatees and dolphins trying to wipe the grins from their faces. To keep the maritime fun accessible, Lazee Lizard's team can also bring equipment directly to each customer's watery launch site.
Sarasota Wind and Water Adventures gives adventurers the vessels and knowledge to plunge boldly into the surf, providing paddleboard, kayak, and waterski rentals as well as lessons. Fishing trips set sail for open water with a Coast Guard-certified captain and all of the tackle necessary to hunt for kingfish, triggerfish, and the vengeful ghosts of scuba divers, while sunset cruises let passengers experience the wonder of voyaging directly into the heart of the sun.
Jesse Nofi is most at home on the open water. An experienced fisherman since his teenage years, Jesse learned early that the richest bounties often lie in the less-traveled depths out past the shore. Now the Coast Guard–licensed charter captain of 360 Fishing Charters, Jesse shares his affinity for exploration with passengers, running fishing excursions in and around Tampa Bay. Aboard his fleet of kayaks or a 22-foot Crestliner powerboat, passengers might undertake inshore pursuits of redfish, grouper, and catfish or lead deep-water chases for snapper and grouper through waters up to nine miles offshore. When he’s not helping anglers haul in their latest catch, Jesse can also be found writing up recaps of his time on the water as a contributing writer for the websites The Online Fisherman and Florida Marine Times.