Paddle boarding with sea turtles
As told by ISLE Advocate Lauren
Hawaii is known for its amazing beaches, diving and hiking. It’s also becoming more and more known for its vast paddle boarding locations, as well as the highly-desired sea turtle encounter. On a recent trip to the Big Island of Hawaii, I had one of the most mind-blowing experiences on my ISLE inflatable paddle board (that I flew out from San Diego!).
Face to face with a family of sea turtles
Staying in Kailua-Kona, I woke up early to drive across the island to a beach that was noted for its clear water and sea turtle (or “honu” as the locals call them) population. I pumped up my ISLE board while taking in the scenery –greenish-blue, clear, calm, waist-deep lagoons surrounded pillars of black volcanic rock to my right and left. To the front of me was the open ocean, with waves breaking on a 4 foot rock wall about 200 feet out, allowing for perfect shore diving and paddling. After a little jump off the rocks down to a secluded beach, I entered the water on my board and immediately came face to face with a multi-generational family of honu.
A local paddle boarder told me that this specific honu family travels the world the majority of the year, then every fall, comes back to this particular beach where they were hatched, all to begin the nesting process again. The patriarch of the family was massive and was marked by a huge crack in his four-foot shell (he was hit by a boat propeller years ago). He had two generations of younger turtles with him, 6 turtles in total, and one that I nicknamed Lil’ Boo (it was the week of Halloween, and he kept popping out of places to surprise/follow me).
Swimming with sea turtles
With how light my ISLE board is, I was able to put it up on the rocks temporarily while I photographed the turtles circling me under water and feeding on limu, a type of dense seaweed that grows off of the surrounding rocks. While I typically try to keep my distance from turtles out of respect, this family was incredibly friendly (almost too friendly). The father tried to eat my bikini bottom (that was awkward) and his family members followed me around, swimming next to me or diving down with me.
Sea turtle climbs on paddle board
After about an hour of watching them underwater, it was time to get back on my board and explore. Lil’ Boo – my new boyfriend – let me know his true feelings about me exiting the water when he tried to climb ON MY BOARD. If I didn’t think my inflatable was tough before, having a 250lb turtle try to clamber up the side of it truly showed the board’s dexterity. Letting Lil’ Boo know kindly that if he wants to board my SUP, he has to take me to dinner first, and preferably something different than limu. I paddled off, allowing for him to follow me into the lagoon. Here, he circled me for about half an hour, occasionally checking in on his mermaid friend on her mermaid mobile.
I loved that my ISLE inflatable paddle board proved to be super durable when in contact with giant sea turtles. Not only did my board leave the water without any damage, the sea turtles also swam away unharmed. I am an avid lover and supporter of not only photographing wildlife, but also preserving it. This board made my experience 100 times more special, and I can’t wait to have more adventures like this!