Thousands of people herded like cattle toward Gulfport to see a beach chocked-full of "Real" Florida charm. People picnicing and swimming, sailboats by the dozens and powerboats galore anchored up to get a spot for the gala, but kayakers get the best show of all!
This is the perfect time of year to kayak Gulfport Florida. It's only a 20 minute paddle from Gulfport beach to the entrance of Clam Bayou Nature Park which is a pasture for the feeding manatee that roam Boca Ciega Bay - as a young couple from Boston discovered; While paddling lazily across the flats they drifted over the top of a sleeping cow manatee and her calf. He awoke the sleeping giant with a paddle-bump that trigger a startling event. A giant whale-like tale rose from the calm surface like the great whales of the oceans. It hovered momentarily with water running off its rubbery black skin, then in a thunderous slap it crashed defiantly onto the back of the kayak and sent an enormous wake across the entire length of the boat! It could have been a 'bottle rocket' or maybe a 'Whistling Pete' screaming across the bay, but no, it was the little “Mrs” in the front of the kayak clutching all she owned belting out an ear-piercing squeal that got my attention.
My cell phone rang. Before I could say hello a flurry of stuttered, unfinished questions roared through the phone with high-pitched chaos in the background!
“What the heck? What kind of sea creatures are... do you have alligators...there's no killer whale's out here is there.... SHARK! It looked like a giant sea lion, do you have....?”
Wildly entertained I interrupted calmly, respectfully smiling, "Could it have been a manatee?"
Now with the phone in her hand – not that she needed it cause I could hear her anyway – she screamed, "What the #$%^ is a manatee and are they dangerous and do they eat people?" Her excitement then redirected toward her husband in a series of muffled direct orders. - Like the wheel on a riverboat his kayak paddle was spinnin-n-slashin with rapid strokes toward shore. Constant glaces over their shoulder's suggested that my advice of manatee being harmless was disregarded.
So back at O'Maddy's Beach Bar the couple shared their experience using wild arm gestures and contorted facial expressions that over a few beers grew to an entertaining side show for the friendly locals who gladly acknowledged with applause, laughter & congratulatory slaps-on-the-back.
Being from Wisconsin I can honestly say I've never actually "tipped" a cow. But this I know; Cow Tipping... the 'sport of farmers' was created and perfected by the largest consumers of beer in the country! So if your up for a little Southern styleesea-cowow tipping, load up a kayak and launch from Gulfport Beach, head East to the turtle grass pastures of Boca Ciega Bay and watch for the critters that look like sea lions. And if you get up the nerve to tip one, our best advice is to wear a life jacket & bring your own beer!
Kurt Zuelsdorf. Writer, Urban Tracker, Outdoor Enthusiast at Kayak Nature Adventures kayak and sup rentals