Stand Up Paddling with Gators

While taking a day off from training for the upcoming season, I decided to take a walk on the wild side-paddling with gators. Myakka State Park in Florida is home to what is known as the Deep Hole, or Gator Hole, which is the largest populated gator hole in the world. The swamplands in the park are filled with all kinds of wildlife: hogs, snapping turtles, snakes, and hundreds of species of birds, including alligators. I didn’t have to drive far considering Myakka State Park is right next door to my home in Sarasota.

My friends Cami Swan and Brad Mickelson (the photographer) joined in on the voyage. We started off our adventure by picking up our permit at the visitor center so that we could enter the Deep Hole and then we launched our boards on the river. We used the lightweight Grand Prix and the Werner Zen 95s, which are the perfect paddles for touring or racing because they are easy-going on the shoulders. The paddles had just the right amount of flex to prevent our forearms from cramping up and kept our hands from tiring out during our nine-mile paddle.

Our day started out with a bang as four 10+ foot gators were there to greet us at the put-in. They were eyeing us down as we hopped on our boards and continued down the Myakka River. We stopped and videoed our journey throughout various exciting areas of the park. I was able to use my drone to capture some aerial footage of a wild hog, thousands of gators were bathing at the Gator Hole and along the river banks. I got up close to capture footage with the various snakes and birds. The video does much more justice at demonstrating the phenomenal experience we had that day.

Once we reached Gator Hole it felt like I found gold. The sheer amount of gators in such a small area was remarkable! “What gathered all of these gators here to this one area?” I’d ask myself. I had to get beside these beautiful beasts. Many people are absolutely terrified of gators, but in reality the alligators are more afraid of you than you are of them. Well, most likely. When I was paddling alongside all of the giant reptiles, I felt like I was playing with death all the while experiencing something truly beautiful and unreal. I was so happy to bring Brad and Cami on this journey as they are from Utah and Colorado where there are zero gators. I was happy to give them a true “Welcome to Florida” adventure. It is an unexplainable feeling being able to explore the Gator Hole in Myakka State Park via stand up paddling.


Watch the video over Instagram feed to watch the video.

Author, Brad Ward
IG: @lg4l941