By Lindsey Rogers
White sand and crystal-clear water aren’t all South Walton has to offer. In fact, all the other activities — fishing, horseback riding, hiking, bike riding — are what make this area so special and attractive to people of all kinds.
One of the most popular activities among visitors and locals alike is stand-up paddle boarding, a relatively new activity involving what looks like an elongated surfboard that users stand on and use a paddle to move across the water’s surface.
South Walton is an especially perfect place for the budding sport, which is something Jeff Archer stumbled on when he founded his company YOLO Board here in 2007.
Archer said South Walton is one the best places to stand-up paddle because of the variety of beginner friendly water and the huge diversity of paddling experiences. With the Gulf of Mexico, the Choctawhatchee Bay, coastal dune lakes and rivers, you’ll never get bored of the scenery.
Plus, South Walton’s climate allows for year-round paddling.
“Stand up paddle boarding to Walton County is like snow skiing to Aspen or Breckenridge,” Archer said.
Paddling in the gulf offers a paddler beauty in every direction and the opportunity to have a close-up encounter with species such as dolphins and sea turtles in their natural habitat. Archer suggests you paddle the gulf in the morning when it is flat because as the south winds arise it is more difficult to paddle.
If you’re new to paddle boarding, the coastal dune lakes are for you. These lakes are mostly protected from the winds, which results in flat, smooth waters perfect for those first-timers. You get the best of both worlds paddling in a coastal dune lake because the outfall will take you directly to the gulf when you’re ready to hit the beach.
The Choctawhatchee Bay, fresh water rivers and natural springs are other flat venues for paddling. The bay is located just north of U.S. Highway 98 while the springs are a little further drive.
Morrison Springs in Ponce De Leon is Archer’s favorite spring to paddle.
Paddling affects both the physical and mental well-being of the paddler, Archer said.
Physically, it improves core strength and balance. It also leads to better overall cardiovascular health.
Plus, being out on the water can act as a mental release, providing exhilaration and time to get in touch with nature.
Although it can be nice to spend some time alone, paddling is also a great activity to enjoy with friends and family. Archer likes distance paddles with his dog, Flea, paddle adventures with his friends and surfing expeditions with his son and brother.
“It has allowed me to mix work and play in a seamless way that fits my lifestyle,” he said.
Lindsey Rogers is a summer intern with The 30A Company.