The Islands Bounce Back: Spotlight on St. John

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Resilience.  After the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria in the US Virgin Islands and surrounding areas, the news outlets went dark as the islands began the monumental task of digging themselves out from under the debris, restoring power, water and inhabitable life on some of the favorite playgrounds, like St. John, within the western hemisphere. Stories of heartbreak, relocation, even death spun a picture too hopeless to even contemplate.

Today, 2+ years after those Cat 5 hurricanes slammed into the Virgin Islands, people are opening their doors to tourism once again. Here at Standup Journal, we hale the resiliency of these tiny islands to stand up and be counted.  Here is Red Paddle Co. ambassador Tom Taylor’s recounting of his return to St. John.

 clear water Red Paddle co
Tom Taylor experiences a triumphant return to St. John Island on a recent family vacation packing supplies and his Red Paddle Co Voyager iSUPs. All photos by: Tom Taylor

 

Returning to St. John:  Two Years after the Hurricanes

“It’s Back!”

That’s what crossed my mind when I got off the ferry at Cruz Bay. In July, I took a week long family vacation for my second trip in 4 years. My first visit was back in 2015, prior to the two Category 5 Hurricanes that hit the region in 2017. Both hurricanes made a major impact on the Virgin Islands, especially the farther eastern side of St. John Island. Local businesses, homes and boats were destroyed. Tourism came to a screeching halt. People who fled the island for safety found it hard to get back to their homes.

While the rest of world continued on after the storms, the communities on the island had to rebuild. Two years after those dreaded storms, the islands are open for travel… for business.

Tom Taylor wife snorkeling St John island
Jamie Taylor dives deep to experience the incredible coral around St. John.

 

Red Paddle Co Voyager: Optimal Island Transportation

I tell you of this to help you understand the joy I had seeing, experiencing and living the Island lifestyle. I brought my 2 13’2 Red Paddle Co Voyagers for the trip along with my Red Original Dry Deck Bag and Soft Cooler. It was perfect!

Jungle Tom Taylor Red Paddle Co
The perfect travel equipment: Red Paddle Co’s Voyager, dry packs and paddles all pack down into a carry all bag to be rolled through the airport!

 

My family and I rented a jeep for the week and explored a different bay every day. There were so many incredible experiences paddling those blue tropical waters. We paddled with Sea Turtles, over Reefs and to smaller islands. We used the boards to hold our gear on the surface as we snorkeled around. It definitely adds a level of comfort knowing the boards were attached to us with our trusty leg leash.

Tom Taylor family2 Red Paddle Co
Stand up paddling on St. John is a crystal clear experience.

Special Places:  Mermaid’s Chair

One of my favorite moments was paddling our boards to the smallest beach on the island, The Mermaids Chair. It was located between two large rock faces and had just enough beach to park our paddle boards.

Mermaid's Chair St John Island Tom Taylor
Finding those special places to explore, accessible only by stand up paddleboard is what adventuring is all about.

I couldn’t be happier with the current state of the island and overall SUP experience. We finished our trip with lots of great memories, some sandy boards and a renewed spirit for more outdoor adventures. As I look now, I’m still impressed with the resilience of the island and it’s residents. I can’t wait for our next trip back to those majestic islands.

St Johns sunset boats
Another Virgin Island sunset: They just don’t get better than this. Photo by: Tom Taylor

Written by:  Tom Taylor

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Tenacious Tom
Tom Taylor, currently is the SUP instructor for Paddleboard Orlando (https://paddleboardorlando.com/). He bought his first board in the summer of 2012 and quickly got hooked. Needing to fill his summer break from teaching middle school physical education, Tom was looking for an outlet for his new obsession. He met Ned Johnson, the owner of PBO and soon became the lead instructor for tours. Starting with the "Friendly First Timers" tours in Winter Park Chain of Lakes, Tom now has branched out to leading tours to various waterways in Central Florida. This includes several Florida natural springs: Wekiva Springs, Blue Springs, Silver Springs and Rock Springs. In 2019, he experienced his first standup whitewater on the Yampa River in Colorado. He's always looking for the new ways to have fun on the water. * * Thanks to the moderate weather in Florida, Tom with his friends and family spend many weekend days on their boards. Paddleboard adventures are a part of every summer vacation including trips to St. John, US Virgin Islands, Santa Rosa in the Florida Panhandle, Fort Myers and Anna Marie Island on the Gulf Coast. * * Tom has a strong influence in the industry as an ambassador and team rider for various outdoor product companies, several board brands and apparel companies. You can see some of his adventures on Instagram @tenacious_tom13