Think of Florida, and you’ll probably think about our state’s breathtaking beaches and oceans. Surrounded on three sides by water, the Sunshine State offers ample opportunity to engage in water sports and activities — something both locals and tourists take to with a passion.
How passionate, you ask?
Nearly every beach from Pensacola to Miami offers an amazing array of watersports activities — parasailing, jet ski rentals, stand up paddleboarding, and surfing to name but a few. USA Triathalon’s website lists a large number of triathlon competitions scheduled to take place here in 2018, and even people residing in the landlocked center of our state can take advantage of the numerous rivers, lakes, and ponds to canoe, water ski, and fish.
But if long-distance swimming and zipping around on waterskis doesn’t seem enticing, Florida also provides some of the best places on the planet to go stand up paddleboarding (SUP). An increasingly popular activity that appears to be a cross between surfing and kayaking, SUP offers users a way to get outdoors and connect with nature while engaging in a decent full-body workout — all while enjoying the unmatched tranquility and beauty of the Sunshine State.
The popularity of stand up paddling in Florida has been on the rise for years, and innovative local companies have arisen to meet the growing demand for high-quality gear. From travel-friendly inflatable SUPs to boards designed specifically with fishing in mind, the paddle board industry is exploding and three innovative Florida companies continue to stand out in the crowded field of SUP manufacturers.
iRocker — Jacksonville, FL
Buying a paddle board is a lot like buying a car in that it helps to know exactly how you’re going to use it before you start shopping around. Whether you have your sights set on catching the big one or simply want to get fit, there are boards designed to do anything you can imagine.
For Jacksonville-based iRocker, the focus is on the growing market for ultra-convenient and extremely durable inflatables.
iRocker’s popular lineup of inflatable paddle boards has been specifically designed to withstand the inevitable harsh conditions that paddlers often encounter. The company likes to say they’ve built the board; now the user must get out there and paddle. iRocker also takes board portability seriously, and their iSUPs can travel anywhere in the world, set up in minutes, and quickly roll up into the included backpack when the adventure ends. The more user-friendly option as far as paddle boards go, inflatable SUPs provide the perfect blend of performance, rugged durability, and easy transport and storage.
All iRocker inflatables include a 3-piece travel paddle, dual action hand pump, repair kit, and SUP travel backpack.
BOTE — Fort Walton Beach, FL
While passion undoubtedly drives each one of these SUP manufacturers, none of them wear their hearts on their sleeves as proudly as BOTE founders Corey and Magda Cooper.
According to BOTE’s website, Corey, an avid water sport enthusiast, and Magda, a former swimming champion at Auburn University, first tried stand up paddleboarding in 2008 and found the experience enjoyable but lacking in execution.
“All of the boards we tried were the same thing but with a different name,” Cooper stated on the website. “They were all basically giant, unstable, surfboards. It was around that time that I looked at Magda and said, ‘We can make this better; we can make a board that stands apart.’”
Since then, the Fort Walton Beach-based BOTE has produced an impressive range of both inflatable and rigid paddle boards. The company also strives to continually improve their boards through the use of Darkroom — a multi-layered, rapid prototyping and production program that dramatically reduces the time it takes to develop and improve their board designs. While BOTE boards are built with a serious focus on overall functionality and performance, they’re also well-known for their eye-catching good looks.
YOLO Board — Miramar Beach, FL
“You only live once” — the phrase was famous long before the millennial got ahold of it and created the acronym YOLO. But for Miramar Beach-based Jeff Archer, the acronym became a calling after the first time he went out on a paddle board.
“[I was] gliding along on the board with that kind of exhilarating feeling similar to when I was a kid, the first time I took off on a bike without training wheels,” Archer states on the YOLO’s website. “…and then I looked to one side and the other and I’m paddling with a dolphin on each side of my board.”
According to the company’s website, that first experience led Archer to begin crafting paddle boards and delivering them throughout the state in a van, sharing his new passion with others while simultaneously helping to share the SUP stoke.
While YOLO shares iRocker’s desire to boost the sport’s awareness by making their boards accessible and easy to use, YOLO doesn’t limit their board lineup to inflatables. The YOLO Board line consists of a broad selection of both rigid and inflatables built with a variety of purposes in mind. A user may only live once, but with YOLO, you can do it anyway you like.
All three of these Florida companies are making big waves in the worldwide SUP industry. Since stand up paddleboarding is a relatively new sport that is still maturing, there’s a lot of room for these companies to continue growing and it’ll be exciting to see how things go in the years ahead.
The future for these three companies in the beautiful Sunshine State looks bright, indeed.