Find out why Destin, FL, home of the BOTE brand, is a paddle boarding gem on the Emerald Coast.
Corey and Magda Cooper, the founders of BOTE, met in the early 2000’s at Auburn University. Corey, originally from Jackson, Mississippi had studied to become an engineer and Magda, from small town North Carolina, had studied to become an accountant. Having spent a majority of their lives in landlocked areas, they decided that it was time for them to make a move to the coast—Destin, Florida.
Destin is a small town situated on the Emerald Coast of Florida. Boasting white sand beaches and emerald green water of the Gulf of Mexico along with Choctawhatchee Bay, the intercostal waterway, bayous, springs and rivers, Destin is literally surrounded by water.
Having made the move to Destin, both began great careers in their respective majors and lived their lives the way they had planned from college. It wasn’t until they first tried stand up paddling in late 2008 that BOTE became a glimmer of an amazing idea.
“When we first got on a SUP, we loved the “idea,” but hated the product; both form and function. All of the boards we tried were the same thing but with a different name. They were all basically giant, unstable, surfboards,” says Corey. “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.’”
Just like that, BOTE was born and ironically born in one of the best paddle boarding destinations in the States. “It wasn’t until we started BOTE and became avid paddlers that we realized how perfect it was that we founded our business in this area. Gulf, bayou, bay, harbor…we had it all,” says Magda. “We love where we have grown our business and want others to see all that Destin has to offer.”
Destin is located on a peninsula separating the Gulf of Mexico from Choctawhatchee bay. Originally formed as an island, however after multiple hurricanes and changes in sea level, the island was gradually connected to the mainland. Its consistent connectivity of water is what makes Destin a prime spot to paddle--It is not far-fetched to use it as a normal mode of transportation in Destin, due to the fact that you can get to almost any nearby town by water.
“What you will find in-between traveling to these small towns though is what really makes Destin the paddle boarding mecca that it is,” says Corey.
One of the most well-known paddling destinations during the summer months is known as Crab Island. Although the name portrays that it is an actual island, it is nothing more than a very large sandbar. With the water hitting anywhere from your knees to your hips, this shallow water playground is a great place to anchor up and hang out with friends and family.
“People from all over visit Destin and spend a majority of their time at Crab Island basking in the sun, drinking some cold ones, and wading in the water,” says Corey. “The catch, however, is that Crab Island is not accessible by land, making a paddle board the perfect vehicle to get there and back.”
In the Destin Harbor there is a small peninsula called, Norriego Point. This little area is a Destin hotspot during the summer where people beach their boats or boards and throw up tents with crawfish boils and BBQs. If you didn’t bring your own food, you are in luck. Straight across from Norriego is the harborside, which is full of fun restaurants and bars. Don’t worry about the amount of boats coming in and out, this is a no-wake zone making it perfectly paddle friendly!
Then there is the gem that brings so many people to this area--the Gulf of Mexico. Its calm waters and crystal clear view make this the perfect place to paddle out and see some wildlife. Manta rays, sting rays, dolphins, fish and manatees are among some of the unique animals to this area that can be seen near shore. Its pure white sand juxtaposes the emerald water making it a spectacle to see.
“You can spend a whole day paddling along the beach, making stops along the coast to go to beachfront restaurants, bars, and state parks all on your board,” says Magda.
No matter the season in Destin, a constant activity you will find at a majority of the above locations, is good fishing. Corey says, “If you’re anywhere from a beginner to advanced angler, Destin is the prime place to find a great fishing spot. From the Cobia running in March to the year round catch of black drum, red snapper, and grouper, you will never come home empty handed.”
As Corey and Magda have quickly come to find out, Destin is not your typical ‘Florida.’ Corey explains, “The local culture has influences from all over and water is the epicenter of the Destin lifestyle. BOTE has become our life, and if it weren’t for moving to this water centered town, we may never have found the passion to make our boards.”