The first thing to know about St Simons Paddleboard and Kayak is that it’s a small, local business owned and operated by Dr. Norman (Norm) Leonard. Norm’s Ph.D. in Conservation Biology is from UNO (2008), and he also holds a BS in Ecology from UGA (1998). After working in research labs for his two post-docs at UGA and teaching at the college level for over a decade, he finally followed his dream when he bought SSI SUP. For him, the job is about more than having fun on the water. He genuinely loves meeting new people, being active, and spending most of his days outside. In fact, he says, “It really is a dream come true! I get to share my passion for the world with people who are genuinely interested. Many of them share my fascination with nature, and they quickly come to realize that I really love what I do.” The best part, Norm tell us, is that he “get[s] to be outside and have a blast with a lot of really interesting people without having to jam a bunch of information down their throats. Instead, they just start asking questions, and I get to tell them all this really cool stuff. Before we know it, we’re enjoying a great paddle through a beautiful place while we laugh, share jokes, and talk about this very special region. And, every once in a while, I also meet someone who wants to paddle fast or try to paddlesurf, and I get a decent workout. No matter how you slice it, it’s all win-win.”
Life is better when you share it with someone, and Norm chooses to share his time with his wife, Skye McIntyre. Although Skye owns and operates her own counseling practice, SkyeHelps, in Dahlonega, GA, she helps with St Simons Paddleboard and Kayak, too. When she’s not busy with her own clients, Skye often answers Norm’s phone and helps him keep track of things. So, if you call, there’s a good chance that you’ll talk to Skye when you’re booking your paddle excursion, trying to track down a receipt, or inquire about a product.
Norm often tells people that, at the end of the day, St Simons Paddleboard and Kayak is “nothing more than a paddleboard and kayak tourism and livery business.” And, on the face of things, Norm’s claim is completely true. We offer paddleboard and kayak tours, lessons, and rentals on St Simons Island, Jekyll Island, Sea Island, and other areas in and around the Golden Isles.
However, that’s not quite the whole truth; Norm’s true passion is helping people build connections. He wants to help people connect with each other – friends, family, spouses – as well as places. Either way, the bonds that people build when they feel safe, have fun, and reconnect with people they love are linked to powerful emotions. When describing these emotions, people often use words like “love” and express a desire to protect the person, place, or thing with which they bonded. Consequently, it turns out that helping people have a blast while they’re on vacation inspires them feel connected with – and want to protect – the places where they paddle with us.
Thus, the real work of Saint Simons Paddleboard and Kayak is helping complete the conservation triangle. Our company is built around the idea that people protect what they love. We give people a reason to care about conservation research and policy; we give them a reason to care about the land and support preservation efforts.
So, we help people fall in love with the beautiful, special places near our home on St. Simons Island. Let us show you the grandeur of a sunset over the salt marshes, explore tidal creeks with a pod of dolphins, or challenge your athleticism in the surf. Paddle for fun and spend the afternoon laughing with friends, or hang out with Norm as he shares his passion for the ecology and biodiversity of the Georgia coast. See things you simply can’t see from the water’s edge and hear things that are normally drowned out by the sound of a motor. The Golden Isles are a wonderland, rich with gorgeous vistas and fascinating wildlife!
Continuing with the theme of telling you about the “who, what, and why” brings us to the next thing to know about Saint Simons Paddleboard and Kayak: we do this job because we love it! And we also have a very strong conservation ethic. As we allude to above, we want people to help protect Georgia’s coast. We think it’s beautiful. And uniquely worthy of our protection. We also understand that it’s important for ecological, economic, and cultural reasons. The ecological value alone is immense. The salt and freshwater marshes are at the root – literally – of the rich biodiversity we observe along the coast as well as the economic value we derive from that biodiversity. Both of these factors tie into the cultural value of the coast, which stretches back into the deepest recesses of human memory – there have been people living along the coast for thousands of years.
Our mission is to promote the preservation of natural areas by helping people build and nurture their connections with one another as well as the places where we work. We plan to accomplish this goal by providing ecotourism and recreational products that are safe, interesting, and fun so we can build on people’s emotional connections to promote environmental literacy and sustainable stewardship of the world in which we live.
There’s quite a bit packed into this mission statement, but we’re dedicated to the vision. We believe – and hope to prove – that the market will support a business founded on the principles of nurturing an emotional connection to others and nature. We think that a business can promote sustainability while also adhering to the principles of sustainability (it’s more rare than you think), and people don’t always need a financial incentive to protect or preserve nature (also a rare idea). By touching the lives of individual customers and putting our hearts into each tour, we hope to build the next generation of conservationists one paddle stroke at a time.
Norm and Skye bought SSI SUP (which stood for St. Simons Island Stand-Up Paddleboard) in October 2016. After trying their hand at ecotourism in the Georgia mountains, they shifted their focus to Georgia’s coast where there are more tourists. The Golden Isles are an area of rich opportunity that is important in Georgia’s tourism industry, not to mention the region’s ecological, economic, and cultural importance. It’s perfect for an ex-college instructor who wants to find a fun, meaningful ways to help people connect with each other and this special place we call Georgia.
In addition to running Saint Simons Paddleboard & Kayak, Norm and Skye also own and operates CORE Adventure Group. CORE’s mission is to help people reconnect with themselves and “grow from the inside outside” by providing affordable, short-term adventured-based counseling experiences to a diverse clientele. CORE provides outdoor and adventure based counseling services to individuals, couples, small groups, and residential treatment facilities throughout the Southeast.
Norm and Skye currently keep two homes, one in the mountains of North Georgia and another in Georgia’s Golden Isles where they like to paddle, hike, garden, and raise chickens. But, with that said, they also love to travel all over the world, and they’ll readily take you to any destination for a paddling adventure, hike, or backcountry excursion!
Saint Simons Paddleboard & Kayak (SSI SUP) is a subsidiary of Kingfisher Paddleventures LLC. All materials on this site copyright 2017.