Standup paddleboarding, or SUP, continues to increase in popularity. And Wet Inc is your go-to outfitter for rentals, lessons, and more.
By Matthew S. Adams
Perhaps nothing better defines the Emerald Coast than its beautiful natural coastline, featuring enchanting waters, a vibrant world of plant and animal life, and plenty of sun. While some visitors prefer to sit back and take it all in, others prefer a more hands-on approach. An increasingly popular way to enjoy the wonderful outdoor life our area is known for is standup paddleboarding, or SUP.
“It’s like surfing and kayaking, but not,” says Ray Proffitt, the owner of Wet Inc, a watersports shop in Destin, FL. “With paddleboarding, you propel yourself over the water with a higher observation point, and control the float surface with your entire body. It’s very physical, and great exercise.”
Standup paddleboarding, which began in Hawaii in the ’40s and rose to popularity with aging surfers, offers a great source of fitness while being much less exhausting than sports like surfing, allowing more people to take it up as a recreation. “Paddleboarding helped me after numerous surgeries, including hip replacement, various shoulder surgeries—about 14 surgeries all together,” says Proffitt. “I saw how it helped improve my own fitness and gave me a better mental outlook, and I wanted to share that with others.”
When asked about his business, Proffitt says, “Wet is an entity. Our water products put you right in the excitement—the marine life, the incredible color of the water against the sugar-white beaches. When you’re on the water, everyone wants to be with you.” The shop, which offers SUP, surfboard, and bike rentals, various lessons, and other outdoor options, perfectly matchs the ever-rising demand for outdoor attractions and amenities in tourist hotspots like Destin. “Personal interactions are very important in this industry,” says Proffitt of the close community surrounding the sport. “We believe in getting to know our folks. That’s how we sell our business.”
Despite its relaxing nature, standup paddleboarding is also a great source of engaging, competitive fun, involving contests where participants are scored based on maneuverability, handling, and speed. “Our team is very competitive,” Proffitt says of the SUP team he sponsors and promotes, adding how members come to SUP in different ways and for a bevy of reasons. “Every team member has a different approach to SUP, and that’s really the nature of the sport itself,” he says. “SUP offers a sense of self-reliance when you’re out there by yourself, so you come to it in your own way.”
According to Proffitt, the future of Wet Inc, and that of SUP on the Emerald Coast in general, is looking good. “Things increased after the lockdown, and I think that will continue,” he says, noting how a lot of people turned to new outdoor hobbies like paddleboarding when everything else was closed due to the pandemic.
Whether for freedom, fitness, or a sense of personal relaxation, local interest in watersports, and that of SUP in particular, is continuing to soar. “People remember where they went to feel normal when nothing else did,” says Proffitt. “And they’ll keep coming back.”
818 Harbor Blvd.
Destin, FL 32541