BOTE Ambassador Sean Strahlo gives us the ins and outs of paddle boarding in his home of Brevard County!
Located on the beautiful east coast of Florida, less than an hour drive from Orlando, lies Brevard County, a true standup paddle boarder's paradise. Brevard County is home to a wide array of unique paddling destinations. From the epic beaches to the peaceful backwaters, there is a paddling destination for every skill level and paddler. If you're looking to score some waves, winter swells can offer head high barrels at popular surf spots like Monster Hole, RC's, Spanish House, and many more. If you're looking for a tranquil, relaxing paddle with beautiful scenery, then Ballard Park, Thousand Islands, and Crane Creek can provide just that. Brevard County can also bestow SUP anglers with some of the most heart pounding, adrenaline pumping fishing one can experience.
Seasons play a big role in deciding when to visit Brevard County. Depending on the desired paddling activity, the seasons and weather patterns will make or break a successful trip to Brevard. Generally speaking, April through September are the ideal months to enjoy Brevard's spectacular SUP fishing opportunities. The weather is warm, the winds are light, and the fishing is red hot as the bait and trophy game fish migrate through the county. Afternoon showers and thunderstorms are almost a daily occurrence throughout the entire summer, so an early start for any paddling activity is key. The winds begin to pick up and the 90 degree temperatures begin to fade around late October. There is surf year round in Brevard, but the bigger swells are usually scattered throughout the winter months.
One of the more versatile paddle boarding destinations in Brevard County is Ballard Park. Located just off US 1 in Melbourne, Ballard Park is an amazing location for all types of paddle boarders. The park sits on the bank of the Eau Gallie River, which slowly feeds west into the Indian River Lagoon. There is little to no boat traffic and the park is sheltered from the wind, making it a great place for a leisurely paddle or to train. The park is home to large species of wildlife such as dolphin, manatees, and alligators. The shoreline is lined with marinas, beautiful residential homes, and untouched foliage. Tarpon, snook, trout, and redfish are common catches throughout the summer months. Dozens of manatees can be found stacked up next to the Eau Gallie River dam during cold winter days which allows paddlers to get a unique up close experience with these giant mammals.
Another incredible spot to paddle is located just over Eau Gallie Causeway, on the beachside of A1A. Bicentennial Park in Satellite Beach is an excellent destination for SUP anglers. Giant tarpon up to 180lbs, bull redfish, over slot snook, and sharks up to 9ft in length are common catches throughout the summer. The world class fishing begins just beyond the breakers. Enormous schools of menhaden and threadfin herring collect here during the summer. Numerous types of game fish feed voraciously on these schools of bait, presenting SUP anglers a great opportunity to catch a fish of a lifetime. If the fishing is slow, Bicentennial also has a decent break year round for surfers. If SUP surfing is your main goal, venture down the road a few miles to a the local's favorite surf break, RC's, which produces head high plus barrels with the right swell.
Further up the coast in Cocoa Beach, sits a much more well known paddling location, the Thousand Islands. The Thousands Islands are a 338 acre conservation site in the Indian River Lagoon, which consists of a series of naturally occurring islands that formed when waves punched through the Barrier Islands depositing large amounts of sediment . The banks of the islands are covered in mangroves and home to many species of wading birds, ospreys, eagles, and pelicans. There are two marked nature trails that run throughout the islands. Manatees, dolphin, and otters can be seen swimming through the waterways and canals. The Thousand Islands are protected from the wind and are an excellent spot for a relaxing paddle or even to target some of Florida's finest gamefish like snook and trout.
On the opposite end of the county lies the ever beautiful Sebastian Inlet State Park. Most known for its premier fishing, Sebastian Inlet State Park is a must see destination when visiting Brevard County. The park is open year round and hosts 43 campsites, boat ramps, two jetties, a tide pool, and nature trails. The lagoon side of the park is a wonderful area for a leisurely paddle amongst the mangroves and wildlife, such as dolphins, manatees, and aquatic birds. This area is also a superb place to target some of Florida's premier gamefish. For those looking to score some waves, the ocean/beach side of the park has phenomenal surf breaks like Monster Hole and First Peak. The surrounding beaches and waters are home to some incredibly beautiful reefs and sea life. Hundreds of sea turtles come to these beaches every year to nest, making for an unbelievable paddle boarding experience. Dive around the North Jetty during slack tide to swim with enormous goliath grouper, giant schools of snook, dense schools of baitfish, and many more species. The biodiversity at the inlet is astounding. Make note to be cautious of boat traffic and strong currents when paddling around the mouth of the inlet. Schedule a trip to Sebastian Inlet State Park on a week day to truly enjoy the state park crowd-free.
By Sean Strahlo
Published on Thursday, June 09, 2016 in Stories