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Saved Vacation

Even after watching reruns of the Griswold family’s havoc filled
exploits and vowing never to travel with teenagers after spending a
week with my brother’s family several years back, this summer I
decided to pack up my wife, 16 year old daughter and 13 year old son
to head out for an all american family vacation. I packed up the
family car and started the drive with visions of my wife bikini clad

on the beach, my son jubilently jumping in the surf and building
castles in the sand, and my daughter calling me the best dad ever as
we played in the pool as we had when she was my wide eyed adoring
little girl.
Ahhh the joy of the drive to Cocoa Beach, Florida. Well the first
hour of the 17 hour trip anyway. It was at that point that the
children’s grogginess wore off and the bickering began. I immediately
turned into my father making idle threats that began with…”don’t
make me pull over this car” and “when I was a kid I’d be thrilled to
be lucky enough to go on any vacation, much less to Cocoa beach!”. I
wondered as I drove if my dad’s memories of all the summers we had
spent just south of Cocoa Beach in Melbourne Beach, Florida erased all
the horrors of the drive with me and my brothers or if he was laughing
now knowing his curse of my having children “just like me” had finally
come true. I can remember my mother escaping on an almost daily basis
to do some shopping in Vero Beach…I wonder now if my mother really
loved Vero Beach that much or if it was a much needed escape from
vacationing with teenagers. As my daughter asked for the 100th time
why we were heading to Florida since I no longer had any family in the
Melbourne Beach area I started to recall my wife’s cautious
questioning of my planned road trip. I started to worry that my wife
may find the joys of shopping in Vero, leaving me to endure my great
adventure alone with the children who would rather be home with
friends and boyfriends than enjoying a family vacation in Cocoa Beach.
We finally arrived at our destination in Cocoa Beach and checked into
a very nice beach front hotel. I awoke refreshed and excited. Who
wouldn’t be happy in a sun filled sandy paradise with the majestic
waves of the Atlantic ocean crashing right outside the window? Even
teenagers would have to be impressed with dolphins swimming just
offshore and the promise of kayaking with manatee. Right? Right?
Wrong. By day 3 both of my kids informed me that they were bored and
that I had ruined their lives. My wife had mysteriously needed to do
some shopping and hadn’t reappeard in the past 4 hours. When she
joined us for dinner she at least seemed happy and refreshed and then
she said something that changed our entire vacation. She announced we
were not going kayaking the next morning. I started to protest but
before i could continue she looked at my kids and acknowledged to my
son that it would be totally boring compared to the surfing he wanted
to do. Again I began to protest that none of the rest of us could surf
and the point of this vacation was to do things as a family. She
calmly continued, now looking at my daughter, that she knew it was
sooooooo uncool to be seen in a kayak as that was so 1990s. At this
point, I just pouted over my key lime pie. Then with eyes gleaming
she pulled out a brochure that caused my children’s eyes to light up.
My son was saying, really mom, we can do this? My daughter couldn’t
wait to text her boyfriend. I finally looked over to see what all the
fuss was about…STAND UP PADDLE BOARDING, SUP Eco Adventure was
written across the top. My wife explained that Stand Up Paddle
boarding offered a great core workout,was easily accessible to
beginners, allowed us to see all the manatee and dolphin that the
kayak trip offered, but had the added benefit of being a really cool
new sport that could even excite jaded teenagers!
It seemed as my wife had escaped to drive down the coast, but not to
shop but to find us a great adventure. Visitors all along Florida’s
space coast – be it Vero beach, Melbourne beach, Cocoa Beach, or
Merritt Island had discovered that Stand Up paddle boarding was a
great new way to view the beauty, experience the wildlife, and impress
friends and family back home. I was a little skeptical that an old
guy like me who was not a surfer could balance on the board. I
tentatively dialed the number and talked to one of the owners, who was
super helpful and reassuring. It turns out that the majority of SUP
Eco Adventure’s clients were in their 40’s and 50’s. Even though a
great number of their guests were women on girls’ getaways, they had
helped men, kids, water enthusiasts, and first time paddlers all
experience the thrill and excitement of walking on water. It was only
a short drive from Cocoa Beach to Melbourne beach where my family had
the best time of our entire vacation. We had a brief orientation on
the shore where our guides walked us through the steps in a clear,
easy manner before we set off on the boards. Everything was
demonstrated to us and with 2 guides to 6 guests we could get as
little or as much guidance as we needed. I started off kneeling and
found the 12 foot SUP board to be very stable. I was quickly standing
and soon had my sea legs. Looking around this nature lover’s hideaway,
I felt as if I was in the middle of a secluded paradise, even though
it was only minutes off the main road. The only other people we saw
during the 2 hours were 2 fisherman, sitting quietly in their boat,
tucked in the mangroves. But we weren’t alone – we encountered a mama
manatee with her calf and were lucky enough to have them swim along
side us for several minutes. We sat down to watch them and the baby
curiously raised his head to view us and even nuzzled up next to my
son’s board. A little while later we saw a small pod of dolphins
swimming south toward Vero beach. I was shocked to see so much
wildlife in an area that had an average depth of about 4 feet! Best
of all, our guides from SUP Eco Adventures had a waterproof camera and
were more than happy to take numerous pictures of my family, that they
happily sent to us online free of charge. My kids could barely wait
to update their facebook pages with these new photos. The responses
they received from their friends were priceless – I loved that many of
them stated that they wished their families would vacation in Cocoa
Beach, however my favorite was the one that stated that they had the
coolest dad ever! So go ahead, pack up the car, ignore the complaints
of your children, and bring your family to visit Brevard county – be
it Vero Beach, Melbourne Beach, or Cocoa Beach. The one thing you
want to make sure you do though is take the entire family out Stand Up
Paddle Boarding – you too can than be the coolest parent ever!

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