YOLO Watersports is much more than a beachbum’s delight.
It’s a true destination for recreation that’ll suit just about anyone.
It’s one of those breathtakingly perfect late mornings on Captiva Island in early May. A brilliantly sunny and cloudless blue sky, temperatures in the low 80s, hardly a hint of humidity to be felt anywhere — and the adventure of a lifetime awaiting just a left turn off Captiva Drive, westward down Andy Rosse Lane.
This writer and his family happen to be lucky today, and find a hidden parking stall at our charming, colorful destination: YOLO Watersports, just a shell’s throw from the legendary Mucky Duck Restaurant and just steps beyond, the gorgeous Gulf of Mexico.
Marcel Ventura has owned YOLO Watersports for almost 30 years, and offers Captiva’s beach lovers just about anything anybody could want or need to rock your day: banana boats, waverunners, flyboards, stand up paddleboards, surfboards, sailboats, bikes, scooters, scoot coupes, golf carts, baby joggers, beach chairs, beach umbrellas, even Yeti coolers. Inside, there’s myriad sun and fun retail items to be had, from necessities to shades to GoPros.
But our mission this Tuesday morning is the grand prize, the highlight reel of Captiva adventures — and that’s taking flight above the Gulf waters, tethered to an 800-foot cable as your trip boat below guides you into the winds and you parasail into paradise.
It’s an adventure our team — two adults and three kids from eight to 13 years old — have been anticipating for days. So we sign our waivers, scurry to the beach, wade out to our boat and its crew of two and climb aboard.
“To me, parasailing feels like you’re floating, sort of being on a magic carpet,” Ventura says. “Once you’re high enough and can’t hear the boat anymore, it’s so incredibly peaceful and relaxing. And the view is spectacular.”
First up are the guinea pigs, also known as our kids. With years of experience riding virtually all of the big-name coasters in theme parks across the state, the crew straps them into their PDFs, clips them safely onto the sail lift and seats them on the bench — effectively a comfortable swing for three, only with a parachute attached to it. The captain throttles forward and off they rise.
Roughly 12 minutes later, they return to a perfect landing — actually standing on the boat — after a playful, last-minute pants-dip in the water that’s part of the ride. Smiles abound, and “awesomes” fill they air.
Then it’s our turn. In full disclosure, this writer isn’t the world’s biggest fan of roller coasters where you’re feet aren’t touching some kind of floor, and in parasailing there ain’t no floor. But to the credit of the crew, their approach and their emphasis on safety and security, there’s not even an anxious second to be had. We strap in, we lift off, and in minutes we’re fully tethered 800 feet out — more than 500 feet in the air.
It’s truly difficult to fully convey the wonder of parasailing high over the Gulf of Mexico, because it’s almost like trying to describe a state of perfection. It’s absolutely quiet. The expanse of water that sparkles below you is stunningly beautiful. Look around, and you witness 360 degrees of blue sky and the etch-a-sketch details of Captiva Island, Roosevelt Channel and Pine Island Sound. Most of all, there’s an overriding sense of a feeling too seldom felt in our busy and noisy world: peace. Pure peace.
It was an experience of a lifetime for us, and apparently is for a lot of others — YOLO Watersports is the number three Captiva attraction among visitors on TripAdvisor. “We’re very fortunate to have the location we have, and it seems the islands just keep getting busier,” Ventura notes. “We’ve seen many families that have come year after year, when their kids were young and now when they’re grown. That’s the special part of what we do, and it makes it all worthwhile.”
Story by John Sprecher | Images by Milissa Sprecher Photography