Here at Ocean Reef Resorts, we like to keep our new guests and old friends abreast of current events or happenings here along The Emerald Coast. One of the newest and most exciting water sports to evolve locally is called Yolo Boarding, also known as stand up paddle boarding. This sport originated in Hawaii and was considered to be an ancient form of surfing. It became used by surf instructors in California during the early 1960s who used the stand on boards to get a higher view of students and watch for approaching swells. The YOLO Board Company introduced the sport here five years ago and it has become a local, popular phenomenon ever since.
Founders Jeff Archer, his wife Mitzi and a close friend Tom Lossee founded the company in Santa Rosa Beach in 2006. Lossee had purchased a magazine that talked about the sport and shared the information with Jeff. They had to go all the way to south Florida in order to find a paddle board and decided to try it out at the Destin Bridge. Jeff saw a pod of dolphins playing near Crab Island and decided to paddle on over. One of them came right over to him, looked right at him, dove under the board and did a little fan wave. He realized that he could quietly glide right up to the pod and noticed that they were teaching the young dolphin how to fish. The parental dolphin would bump Blue Fish and then herd the young ones over toward the bridge to catch them. The sight of this happening right in front of him was exhilarating! Prior to this time, Jeff and Mitzi had been involved with selling unique hand carved, imported furniture from Indonesia and Tom was a successful landscaper next door. The building they were in, which is located on Highway 393 north of Highway 98 in Santa Rosa Beach, made a perfect conversion from furniture to YOLO Boards. The name, by the way comes from that mantra “You Only Live Once” which was one of the first things that came to mind when they discovered this sport. The experience with the dolphins made Jeff feel like Marlin Perkins, the host of the iconic, long lived Mutual of Omaha's “Wild Kingdom” TV show. “Who wouldn't want to feel like this?” he asked himself. A passion and a new company were born that day.
These special YOLO boards are like surf boards but large and over sized allowing the boarder to stand while paddling this vessel in almost gondolier type fashion. The YOLO boards are really a hybrid vessel of sorts that is a cross between surfing and kayak or canoeing. It is actually more similar to the latter since they are made to glide across water not surf the swells. Jeff has lived all over but he and his wife Mitzi are originally from Louisiana. He's never seen a place like The Emerald Coast saying it was the perfect spot for paddle boarding. “This is an amazing place for any naturalist with all of its inland lagoons, rare coastal dune lakes and all located on a magical strip of land between the Gulf of Mexico and Choctawhatchee Bay.” Indeed, these craft are perfect for silently navigating the often placid waters of the bay as well as the gulf on a calm day. It can be quite a workout if you want it to be, however nothing beats gliding silently above crystal clear waters while you look down at the crabs and fish or beyond towards the lush scenery of the shoreline. Jeff described it this way, “It is a very free feeling. It takes you back and you feel like a kid again, enjoying and living that present moment. It brings you into the joy of now.”
YOLO boards have a range of size and incorporate most colors from vibrant to wood toned. The sizes range from nine to fourteen feet in length and twenty-five to thirty-two inches in width. Despite the size, YOLO Boards weigh only about fourteen to thirty pounds due to light weight but very durable building material. They can accommodate all sizes, weights and heights of participants as well as all ages. “You don't have to be an athlete to do this and it is easy to learn” said Jeff. “One of the things I like about this is that people can surprise themselves which is nice to see.” He and his partners view the YOLO Board business as more than just selling paddle boards. “We're not just selling paddle boards, we're selling a life style, building a community and creating a culture that's into nature.” Jeff says that it is “actually even easier to learn than a bicycle.” The sport attracts children as young as eight as well as seniors in their seventies. YOLO Boards range in price from $595 to $1985 with both hard and soft surfaces. Paddles range from $149 to $339. There are a number of accessories as well for true YOLO Board enthusiasts which include Big Wave Leashes, Carrier Straps, Waterproof Bags and Pouches as well as fishing apparatus. They have recently introduced a Complete Fishing System that has a patent pending “Board Fisher Rack.” This incorporates unique pole holders with tie downs, a tackle gear box as well as a cargo net box that easily opens and closes securely.
YOLO has done so well here that they are now opening another store in San Diego, California. (We have much warmer water here. HA!) Anyway, in celebration of this expansion and with great appreciation for the “locals” here along the Emerald Coast who have contributed to their success, a big sale is planned. Details will be forthcoming as soon as this article is published and you Ocean Reef readers will be among the first to know. Savings on this sale will be very substantial and limited in its time offering so new boarders and old pros should check this out right away.
YOLO Boards may also be rented out in the Scenic 30A village of Watercolor. This is the perfect place to try out this new sport because of the gorgeous isthmus location between pristine Western Lake and the Gulf bordering Grayton Beach State Park. Rental rates are as follows: $25 for one hour, $45 for three hours, $65 for six hours, $80 for twenty-four hours and $120 for forty-eight hours.
Since there are so many new participants in this burgeoning water sport, their website Yoloboard.com has a number of cool videos and articles with advice on proper paddling techniques, beginner lessons and core workout series for more avid athletes. Although you can participate at any level, many athletes have embraced this sport due to its mix of balance as well as a hard core workout. Jeff describes it as “a form of health and fitness that's fun and easy to learn.” Now Paddle Board tournaments are starting to spring up around the nation including such diverse places as here along the Emerald Coast, New Smyrna Beach, St. Simon's Island, New York City's Hudson River, the lakes of New Hampshire, the mighty Mississippi and of course Hawaii. Local tournaments have become a regular occurrence with prizes and awards but the YOLO Board Company also contributes these proceeds to local charities raising money for ocean conservation or sea life. Currently they are having a sale on all their hot pink YOLO boards with a percentage of sales going to the American Cancer Society for breast cancer. Next year YOLO and paddle boarding are going to be introduced to the Florida Special Olympics. Jeff has plans to start some volunteer mentoring projects with kids from local schools in order to engage them with nature and fun exercise.
As always, Ocean Reef will be here to accommodate all your needs with our fine private vacation rentals which include quaint cottages, luxury condominiums and even beachside mansions. Our special amenity programs, designed specifically with our guests in mind also include free rounds of golf, a variety of local guest discounts and a complimentary dinner cruise ticket on the Solaris. Enjoy reviewing your options on our user friendly website. And don't forget as our friends over at YOLO have to say...you only live once!