Islamorada Times recently had the pleasure to visit with Mike and Shana Walsh, owners and operators of Otherside Boardsports located in Islamorada. Otherside Boardsports offers an array of water activities and all the knowledge and equipment needed for their customers to have an enjoyable day on the water. They were kind enough to invite us on a private guided Stand Up Paddle Tour so we could experience firsthand Otherside’s expertise when it comes to on-the-water excursions.
The Stand Up Paddle Tour
Our Stand Up Paddle Tour was led by one of Otherside’s expert guides, Chris. While our staff has had experience with a number of water activities, we were new to doing SUP (Stand Up Paddle) tours of this length. Chris took extra time to measure us for the right size boards and gave tips on safely mounting the board and proper form and positioning for paddling. Once we had our balance, we were off!
Otherside Paddle Shack is located at the back of Lorelei Restaurant & Cabana Bar and SUP tours launch from their beach. We started by paddling across the bay, a familiar view from watching sunsets at Lorelei’s, and very cool to experience it from out on the water. The paddle across the bay was the physical test of the SUP tour, navigating the little ripples and currents that come through the bay challenged our balance the most during this part of the tour. But we stayed afloat! Happy to report that thanks to Chris’s great tips we didn’t have anyone fall in the water. This part of the ride was still very manageable and would definitely be suitable for beginners.
From there Chris took us through the mangroves where we kneeled on our boards and used our hands to grab onto mangrove branches and pull us along through winding tunnels that can only be accessed by paddle board. This was the true Florida Keys SUP experience. After emerging from the mangroves we stood back up on our boards and were able to spot several baby nurse sharks which Chris helped to identify as we paddled across the other side of the mangroves.
We then paddled back toward the beach at Lorelei’s through a calm, straight channel that bumped up to some of Islamorada’s waterfront homes and marinas. This part of the paddle was very calm and easy because the channel was flanked by mangroves and land which eliminated any wind or currents. During this leg of the trip we really got in the groove and felt like we were really gliding on top of the water as we paddled. One last stretch across the bay back to the beach and our hour-long paddle tour concluded.
SUP and SUP Yoga are not only great ways to work out and stay active, but an awesome way to truly experience the waters of Islamorada and even those smaller channels and tunnels that are teeming with wildlife and cannot be accessed by boat. The folks from Otherside are absolutely the experts to call on for an amazing Paddle Board experience!
About Otherside Boardsports
Otherside Boardsports also specializes in kite boarding. When others are stewing about the windy weather conditions that fall upon the Keys quite frequently, Otherside is out on the water taking advantage of the weather and providing their customers with a first-rate kite boarding experience. They also own Keys Cable Park, a Wakeboard Park in Marathon that sits on 50 acres and uses a cable system instead of tow boats. It is perfect for beginners and experts alike. Their storefront operation in Islamorada offers everything you need for all these water activities and also offers a great line of clothing, apparel and accessories.
Mike and Shana are as unique and different as the business they built together since moving to Islamorada. The couple’s love of the water is rooted back to the days when they first met at the Jersey Shore. What is most impressive about the Walsh’s is their passion for the environment and the love of their community. They recently hosted an Earth Day Festival at their Keys Cable Park facility that included a mangrove clean up day and used all eco friendly and organic products. Post Hurricane Irma, while being devastated by the damage themselves, and in the midst of a huge clean up, they set up a Hurricane relief program that raised money for others in need.
Mike calls Shana “a Superhero and the glue that keeps it all together”, and Shana says Mike is the “doer of anything for anybody”. The Walsh’s are just really good people providing a great experience for visitors and locals to the Islamorada area. We are fortunate to have them in our community. As we always say, a trip to Islamorada is not complete without getting on the water. So C’mon down and be sure to visit Otherside Boardsports and let them show you the experience of a lifetime.