SUPing With Baby Sharks
January 04, 2024Jan 04, 2024
living outside paddle
Once you start paddleboarding, you look at waterways differently. Every lake, river, bay, and mangrove shoreline becomes a new place to explore.
And when paddling clear tropical waters, there's even more to see because you get a bird's eye view of the underwater world right under your board. For one of our Oregon-based KEENmates, Ginny, it was a view she'll never forget: her first time seeing a shark in the wild!
Read on for her SUP bucket list trip report.
By Ginny Figlar
Favorite creature spotted: Lemon shark
Favorite creature not spotted: Manatee :(
Most important thing worn: Reef-safe sunscreen
Biggest aha from the trip: Tours are so fun when adventuring solo
When I’m not running, I’m usually paddleboarding, and I’m always looking for new places to SUP.
I recently traveled to south Florida to compete in a track & field event, and was not planning on doing much adventuring. But when my 400m prelims were canceled, I ended up with a free day to explore. I saw that the Biscayne National Park Institute was close-ish and offered a half-day eco-adventure paddleboarding in mangroves around uninhabitated keys in Biscayne National Park. With baby sharks (!!!).
"I usually try to avoid bite-y things when SUPing but when would I get to do something like this again?"
I usually try to avoid bite-y things when SUPing — not something I ever need to worry about on lakes and rivers in Oregon — but when would I get to do something like this again?
A 30-minute boat ride took our group of six paddlers from the mainland out to Jones Lagoon in between Totten Key and Old Rhodes Key. We took it slow through manatee territory. I kept my eyes peeled for one but no luck.
We reached the lagoon and spent the next 2-3 hours meandering through mangrove canals. Periodically someone would yell out that they saw a shark or a barracuda. I seemed to always just miss it. Then a baby lemon shark darted right under my board! The person behind me was so startled her board bumped into mine pretty hard, and I did everything I could to stay standing on my board at that moment! (I did. Phew.) After that, I had better luck spotting wildlife, including a loggerhead turtle, sting ray, and nurse shark.
I never did get to see a manatee. I guess that's a bucket-list paddle for another day.
I always wear my Clearwater CNX sandals when I’m in or around water! OK, I don’t always wear them when I’m on my paddleboard as I prefer to be barefoot. But I enjoy having the closed-toe protection when launching and exiting waterways. And there have been a few times I’ve kept them on for a paddle, which you can do with the Clearwater because its low-profile sole has so much ground feel. It’s like being barefoot.
It was a good reminder that when life takes you someplace — whether it’s a business trip, reunion, or another event — to go explore! It turned out to be the most amazing paddle I’ve ever done, and I learned a lot more about the area I was visiting in the process.
Biscayne National Park Institute also offers a snorkel/SUP combo adventure, which I would do next time if I have more time. Also, the launch point is in a very remote area, but there’s a little shop with reef-safe sunscreen and snacks at the dock.