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What'SUP Vero Beach

What’SUP Vero

Stand Up Paddleboarding in Vero Beach

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Have you noticed all the long surfboards people are carrying about in Vero Beach? To the uninitiated, it might seem that Vero is a haven for Long Boarders or an old surfers haven. There are positively “Two Girls for Every Boy” in this town, actually more like four. Just ask any young woman you know. That’s a whole ‘nother story.

What we are witnessing is the infancy of a sport known as Stand Up Paddleboarding, SUP for short. What is happening is that people are letting go of their fears and giving it a go. And when fears are banished the free go far.

Vero Beach is blessed to be at the center of two incredible assets, the Fort Pierce Inlet and the Sebastian Inlet. If you’ve read “A Land Remembered” you will note that the Fort Pierce Inlet played a major role in Florida’s Citrus history as the New England market’s access to our crops. Sebastian Inlet has a much rowdier and perhaps tawdry history wrapped up in Local, State and then Federal politics making for a good many tales of epic proportion. Let’s explore that sometime.

What these inlets do is allow a continual resurgence of open ocean currents to enter and retreat from the Indian River providing the life for of the “lagoon”, an estuary of international impact. They also provide a magnet for the marine life in the river and a synergy of life along the coastline of the Atlantic. The unique reefs offshore of Indian River County combine with this flow of life from the Gulf Stream to produce an environment for a renewal of species up and down the food chain including our own.

This is the backdrop of the incoming tide of the SUP’ers here in Vero. Many locals have been involved for a long time. In fact, we are home to the manufacturer of a highly specialized line of paddleboards. Mark Castlow and company at Dragonfly Boatworks began making versions of paddleboards that incorporates proprietary designs from their successful flats boats and more. Because of their expertise in the flats, their paddleboard has caught on and been shipped worldwide with Dubai as one of the more interesting drops. And they have had a very satisfied client in Jimmy Buffet who loves to use his for Bone Fish excursions.

Breconshire Shipwreck SUP

So where is everyone paddling? The answers are as varied as the paddlers themselves. It will depend upon their interests, what they want to see and experience. For our oceanfront visitors and hotels guests at Disney, Vero Beach Hotel & Spa, Holiday Inn, Coste d’Este, and Waldo’s the Breconshire Wreck is the first stop. They will easily see the exhaust pipe, the hull’s outline and a bit of a reef on calm, clear days. From there, it is best to head south to the Rio Mar reefs for the best views of sea life and reef formations.

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What is hugely important for this and every paddle is safety. Some if not all of the outfitters will include a leash in the rental and this is key. When you are in the ocean or river you will be subject to wind and currents. You do not want to get separated from your board or your paddle. The second critical piece of equipment would be a personal flotation device or PFD. It seems ridiculous since you may be leashed to your board but it is key especially for the novice paddler. The U.S. Coast Guard requires you to have one on the board at least if you will be outside of the surf zone. Yes, there is an entire world of Surfing SUP capabilities, again for another story. Watch out for Murphy’s Law when it comes to water sports, have safety top of mind.

For the Indian River start with Round Island’s Riverside Park, a crowd favorite. There is a SUP/ Kayak drop off circle and a safe sandy beach to launch from. Again, have your safety equipment on your board and use a leash every time. It is actually more important in the river because you can easily become complacent about safety as you enter a state of calm along the way. You will think that you have found paradise; the quiet and easygoing vibe will be all the more heightened because you are literally floating away.

After a while try your skills at other launch sites in the area. The obvious ones are found in other parks in the city and County. MacWilliam Park Boat Ramp is a terrific place to launch with access to the City Marina and islands north of the launch site. The Vero Beach Rowing Club has installed a great floating dock that is also available for launching but watch yourself when standing up too close to the dock. You may also want to launch from Riverside Park and again watch yourself standing up only after you have pushed away from the shore or ramp. The south end includes Memorial Island and much more.

This is a snippet of the adventures you can have with a SUP adventure on the water here in Vero Beach. As with any water activity know your craft, skills and safety equipment. To that add local shore and water knowledge such as bottoms and tides. Always, always, and ALWAYS… Feet First if you need to enter any body of water. Some people will wear waterproof shoes or booties; there will be obstacles in the cushy sand below. Don’t get lulled into feeling too safe. My hope is that everyone who puts off from shore will return safely. And never paddle alone. Next time let’s see where to rent SUP equipment and what they offer for their guests.

Paddle on.

Paddles by the Sea

Paddles by the Sea

If you are looking for tours or rentals please visit Paddles by the Sea. They have two locations one beachside at the Holiday Inn and riverside at Riverside Cafe.

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Vero Beach Paddle Board RentalsVero Beach has even more options for renting paddle boards. Click photo to read more.

“Oh Say Can You See”: Honoring Officers & Gentlepeople

Memorial Island Flag

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Old Glory proudly stands guard in a hauntingly beautiful park on the shores of the Indian River Lagoon. On this early November day, she is swirling furiously in the wind, edges tattered by many seasons of weather. She is a very large, magnificent flag; the symbol of our United States.

I am wandering Vero Beach’s Veterans Memorial Island Sanctuary with a chill running down my back and it is NOT due to a November wind. This “chill” comes from the emotion I feel as I stroll the island’s paths filled with memorials to our Veterans and some of the BEST views in Vero. The five star views pale in comparison to the sacrifices of our military families who have given and continue to give their ALL to protect the freedoms “we the people” cherish so very much. History and memories fill my mind: memories of my father, a Marine; memories of war stories told by Great Uncles; memories of old neighbors who never returned from Vietnam; memories shared with me by the inspiring Veterans I met today at the Victory Center Military Store.

Take a trip to Indian River Mall and very close to Macy’s you will find the Victory Center Military Store.  It is a treasure trove of military items from Navy bumper stickers to World War II collectors items and is staffed wholly by volunteers.  The true treasure are the volunteers (mostly Veterans) at the Victory Center. Their dedication and service to this store and their fellow Veterans is incredibly inspiring.  100% of the store’s profits go to military charities chosen by the volunteers, based on their hours served.  I had the incredible honor to speak with three Veteran volunteers during my visit.

Edie, a 91 years young World War II Navy Veteran, greeted me with the warmth and graciousness of a professional hostess.  She is an amazing example of dedicating one’s life to service and her life and”war” stories still have me awestruck!  Edie, a Navy Chief with 27 years of service, spent 1944 to 1946 in the 7th Naval District in Miami working on Pier 3 in the office charged with ship repairs.  Her husband, whom she met in Miami, was a highly decorated sailor serving on the USS Birmingham.  He received a Purple Heart for his actions upon boarding the burning Princeton as the leading Firefighter following its bombardment by Japanese forces on October 25, 1944.  Edie’s brave sailor was medically discharged due to battle wounds following 8 years of Naval service in December 1945.  Edie continued to serve in the Naval Reserve for the next quarter century in Miami, Jacksonville, Norfolk & Charleston.  During her down time, Edie learned to pilot light planes and flew recreationally from 1951 until the 70s.  In her 9th decade, she has more energy than I and donates her volunteer “profits” to American Legion Post 39.

Edie insisted I speak next to Lieutenant Colonel Andrew, US Army Special Forces Green Beret who served two tours of duty in Vietnam from 1962 to 1966.  The Lieutenant Colonel was a soft spoken man whose decorations for service include the Silver Star, 2 Bronze Stars and “more Air Medals for valor” than he can count on two hands.  After Vietnam, he was Infantry and spent most of his career at Fort Benning as an instructor.  He finished his 22 years of service with Joint Service (Air Force) as part of Operation Looking Glass on the Airborne Command Post out of England & Hawaii as a Nuclear Release Officer.

Victory Center’s store Manager, Nick, an Air Force Sergeant, spent 1971 to 1975 in Germany and at NATO on security detail.  Nick gave me the grand tour, making certain I was aware of the “R & R Bunker” and Wall of Honor.  Besides selling military merchandise, the store provides a space for our local heroes to find camaraderie, support and simply relax.  There are comfortable couches, computers equipped with Skype for “loved ones to talk to their veterans”, refreshments, WiFi, memorabilia and most importantly friends.  The ‘Wall of Honor” is an entire wall full of photographs honoring the Veterans of Indian River County.

November is a month to give thanks.  The Victory Center, celebrating its 3rd Anniversary this month, is in the business of giving thanks to our Veterans daily.  Vero Beach, as a community, honors and thanks its military heroes this Tuesday, Veterans Day, at Veterans Memorial Island Sanctuary.  Take some time today, this week and all through the month to give thanks for our freedoms and thank the Veterans whose service and sacrifice made it possible.


Veterans Memorial Island Sanctuary, Riverside Park

Visit them on FB or http://www.indianriverveterans.org/site/index.php/veterans-memorial-island-sanctuary

Victory Center Military Store, Indian River Mall, 6200 20th Street, Suite 160; 772-226-5316

Visit them on FB or http://vcms-fl.com/

USS Birmingham


Operation Looking Glass