FLORIDA: COLORFUL & QUAINT
If you’ve ever spent time in Florida, you’ll know that the state as a whole feels a bit like a Jimmy Buffett song: quirky, low-key, and colorful. Find your own tune here, whether that’s in the happening hot spot of Miami, sprawled out on miles of white sandy beaches, or wading through Everglades exotica.
Something of a cross between wakeboarding, surfing, and paragliding, kiteboarding looks like – and is – one of the most exhilarating activities on the planet. And Miami is something of a kiteboarding capital, home to warm water and shallow lagoons – the best places to try it out. But it’s also one of the most misunderstood sports, with most onlookers automatically assuming, “No, no, not for me.” So we turn to kiteboarding instructor Brandon Green to help bust the top major myths surrounding the sport, and to encourage you to get out on the water.
Myth: You need tons of upper-body strength to kiteboard.
Fact: “You’re controlling the kite with a harness attached to you,” says Green. “Your core is taking most of the power, rather than your arms. If you have a strong core, your endurance will be high, but if not, you just won’t be out on the water as long. It’s more about balance than strength.”
Myth: You have to be young to kiteboard.
Fact: You can learn to kiteboard at any age. Dutch kiteboarder Poul Rasmussen picked up the sport in his 80s. “I’ve taught kids all the way down to 8 years old,” says Green. “As long as you can understand and comprehend and listen, we have a kite you can fly.”
Myth: Kiteboarding is dangerous.
Fact: Like any sport, “it’s only dangerous if you push yourself or go outside your limits,” says Green, explaining that today’s high-tech kites have two safety releases to ensure students don’t get hurt. Plus, Miami has tons of warm, shallow lagoons, perfect for wading, which makes it easier to control kites.
Myth: Kiteboarding is expensive.
Fact: Yes, the initial cost can be pricey, with private lessons at $150 an hour and Green estimating you’ll need four to nine hours to really get the hang of it. But you can save by enlisting in semi-private sessions and finding used equipment. The wind – reliably blowing at least 12 miles per hour – is free. As are you.
It’s the mighty black-tipped claws, redolent of boxers with their gloves on, that put the Florida stone crab in such high demand when its harvest season hits (roughly October to May). And one of the best restaurant to make your introduction? Billy’s Stone Crab Restaurant in Hollywood Beach – roughly 30 miles north of Cardozo Hotel and just five miles from Marenas Beach Resort – with all-you-can-eat medium, large, jumbo and colossal stone crabs served in this elegant glass-walled fish house.
ABOUT THE CRAB
Unlike other crabs, it’s only the claws that are fished. If correctly broken off with the joint still intact, they will regenerate in time for the next season. Similar in size to a lobster claw with its two knuckles, the meat is much sweeter and more tender. Though there’s the occasional special that tosses lumps of claw meat with rice, chilis, and lime, many stone crab devotees insist the best way to enjoy is simply served cold on a platter with wedges of fresh lemon and a mustard sauce for dipping.
HOW TO CRACK A CLAW
Upon harvesting, claws are immediately cooked (boiled for about eight minutes) to prevent meat from sticking to the inside of the shell, then shocked in cold water. Cracking the meaty buggers comes next.
- Hold the claw in palm of hand with kitchen towel or napkin to prevent juice from running down your arm.
- Use the back of a spoon to lightly strike the back of the rounded side with a quick snapping motion. The key is to do so gently; the shell is notorious for easily splintering, sending little bits – like small stones (hence, the name) – into the meat and rendering it inedible.
- Peel off the shell. If cooked properly and cracked just right, it should come off like a hard-boiled egg.
TRADITIONAL MUSTARD SAUCE RECIPE
Mix these ingredients to make a simple dipping sauce that gives this sweet crab a savory edge.
- 3 ½ tsp. dry English mustard
- 1 c. mayonnaise
- 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp. steak sauce
- 1/8 c. light cream
- 1/8 tsp. salt
On a spring night in 1894, the British steamer S.S. Breconshire hit a reef off Florida’s Atlantic coast and went down – so close to shore that its entire crew made it safely to land. Today, it’s one the Indian River County’s easiest and most accessible dives – no scuba lessons needed, just basic snorkel gear and a sense of adventure. But you will need to know what you’re looking for to maximize the experience. Scot Caviness of Shark Bait Scuba Club, offering tours directly through Benchmark’s Costa d’Este Beach Resort delivers his diving keys.
1) Try to set up a tour just before noon on a sunny day, when the waters are usually calmest and the fish that came in overnightare still active.
2) Practice free-diving beforehand by taking several deep, cleansing breaths, then raising your body up in the water with a frog kick, then down with a sweeping arm motion while raising your feet and legs directly above and out of the water. “This will propel your body downward,” explains Caviness, “and with a breaststroke arm motion, you can get to 10 feet without too much trouble.”
3) “Quite a bit of her structure remains, so there are numerous fish species and other reef inhabitants, such as angelfish, eels, and rays,” says Caviness. Look for grouper near the bow (where Caviness ties off the kayaks) and lobsters on the shelves formed by the fallen-down hulls. In fact, if you find a spiny lobster, you can take it (look for their antennae), but watch out – they’re super fast creatures and their flipping and wriggling attracts nurse sharks (generally harmless, but still nerve wracking).
4) Expect to spend a decent amount of time exploring The Breconshire. Caviness often spends six to eight hours a day at the site and still hasn’t tired of its delights. “The angle of the sun, the state [of the water], and the visibility all come into play to keep the wreck new and exciting each and every time I dive her,” he says.