Fascinating wildlife, tranquil waters, and a day of adventure void of large crowds. Would you believe me if I told you all of this is located less than a 15 minute drive from the heart of Heathrow?
For visitors craving a taste of the real Florida, a half day spent paddleboarding the Lower Wekiva River with Central Florida Paddleboarding is the ideal introduction to Central Florida’s scenic landscapes.
Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP for short) originated in Hawaii and has now spread throughout the world. Paddleboards resemble surfboards but are larger in size. Similar to kayaking in technique, the main difference is that paddleboarding is a stand up sport.
If you’re new to paddleboarding, take comfort in knowing you’re not alone in your fear of falling off or not being able to stand up on the board. I was convinced I’d fall off multiple times or never get to a standing position at all. Chuck Congden, owner of Central Florida Paddleboarding and my guide for the day, was a patient and encouraging coach who corrected my form and got me from kneeling on the board to standing within a few minutes, successfully defying all expectations I had of myself.
On the day of your adventure, you’ll meet your guide at Katie’s Landing. Located about 15 minutes from Heathrow, Katie’s Landing is a quiet launch point on the Lower Wekiva River for kayakers, canoers, paddleboarders, and more. There is a $3.00 honor system entrance fee per vehicle, and on site you’ll find restrooms, plenty of parking, and a nice picnic area.
Before getting in the water, you’ll get an introduction on technique along with guidelines for the day. The guideline that stuck most in my mind was Chuck’s instruction to stay in the middle of the river and away from the banks and grasses, where the “dinosaurs” live. Now there’s a way to get your audience’s attention – mention alligators and I’m all ears. However, this mention of alligators is merely a precaution; 5 years in business (and counting!) and Chuck has never had any incidents or injuries.
Once on the water, you’ll receive instruction on how to get into a standing position. As it states on Central Florida Paddleboarding’s website, “if you can swim, you can SUP,” and you’ll likely find that statement to be true once you’ve wobbled your way into a balanced standing position.
After you’ve found your balance “sweet spot” on the board, your eyes will be open to the beauty of the Wekiva River surrounding you as you paddle down the river. Great blue herons quietly hunting among the grass, turtles sunning themselves on partially submerged logs, tilapia swimming through the clear and shallow water, wildflowers among the riverbanks, large cypress and palm trees towering overhead, and the occasional sound of an alligator grunting unseen. The Wekiva River is designated as a wild and scenic river, and a 1.5 hour long paddle adventure is likely all you’ll need to understand why.
When on a guided trip with Central Florida Paddleboarding, you’ll have just as much fun getting to know your guide as you will taking in the sights. Chuck is a Florida Native from New Symrna Beach, and his passion for what he does is palpable. Even though he’s typically taking visitors out for tours 6 days a week, he still finds time to paddleboard with his family (dog included).
You can also rest assured that safety is a top priority on each trip. Weather is always taken into consideration as high winds can make paddleboarding difficult for beginners and even dangerous, and life jackets are always provided. When you get on your board, you set the pace you’re comfortable with. All of this rounds out to a safe, enjoyable, and very family friendly activity.
For anyone in search of a tranquil and leisurely day on the water with a sprinkle of adventure, paddleboarding can’t be beat. When in Central Florida, you’re closer to Florida’s natural beauty than you realize. Go explore!
About Central Florida Paddleboarding
Central Florida Paddleboarding is open 6 days a week Tuesday-Sunday. In addition to guided tours along the Wekiva River, they also visit the area lakes and New Symrna Beach. All equipment is provided including paddle, paddleboard, and a life jacket. To book your tour, visit centralfloridapaddleboarding.com, call 321-578-0457, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure to bring along sunscreen, water, and a change of clothes just in case.