If you are lucky enough to call Justin Hayskar a friend, then you know that he truly is the real deal. Justin drives hours to seek out the best SUP and surf spots every chance he gets. He is not only passionate about paddling, but also the areas that he paddles. At Glide we joke that he should be the spokesman for the state of Florida because he can name every critter and bit of foliage he passes. Justin seeks out the situations that are truly invigorating, inspiring, and show-case the true beauty of life. When you talk to Justin he is really listening to you and present with you, along with being present with each moment he finds himself in. We are honored to have Justin as a member of the Glide family!
Justin on the Glide Quest.
AJ: How did you get into SUP?
JH: I first got into SUP at the suggestion of my dear friend and fellow Glide Ambassador, Monique Walker. I grew up surfing in Florida and there are many days here where the surf is flat. Naturally, I spent a lot of that down time in kayaks and canoes but that wasn’t as fun as it used to be. So one day Monique invited me to a local race and demo day to benefit an autism awareness charity. I tried several boards and was instantly hooked. I had never really considered the flat water / touring aspect of SUP prior to that. It became a hobby and the hobby became a lifestyle and it’s been a blessing ever since. It will be 5 years ago this August.
AJ: What is your favorite style of paddling?
JH: My favorite has to be paddling down current along one of the spring fed runs we have in Central and Northern Florida. Something that is subtropical, twisty, narrow, and turquoise. Add my close friends and a mutual stoke for such places and it doesn’t get any better for me. Or an adventure that would involve paddling to a place that maybe can’t be easily reached on land. If it involves a touring board and my favorite gear, exploring some remote river, well sign me up!
Florida's amazing Rainbow River.
AJ: How has paddling affected your life?
JH: I talk about this often to my friends that don’t paddle or are interested in trying it out because it is the most rewarding aspect of SUP. Paddling in many ways has become my life or at least an integral part of it. When I think of all the friends I have made, the adventures I have had, the traveling I have done…all of it is directly attributable to paddling. The people I have met along the way…I can’t stress this enough... are seriously just some all star human beings. It’s amazing how SUP can connect me with others who are exactly the kind of people I want to be around. If you meet someone who enjoys paddling, chances are strong that there are several other things you will have in common too!
Into the depths of Florida's wildlife!
AJ: What are a few details you like about Glide SUPs? Any drawbacks?
JH: First and foremost… the thing that I LOVE about my Glide boards is their durability. The patented surface shield, the secret sauce…whatever it is…it is tough. And I need it to be. I will be the first to admit that I am rough on boards, not on purpose, but just naturally. I drop them, forget to secure them, don’t rinse them, paddle straight into oyster beds and tree trunks….you name it. I am pretty much spoiled from ever owning any other kind of SUP that would require more gentle use.
The second thing I love is that my boards are made with as much thought given to environmentally friendly processes as possible. AND all of this is done at a price point that is competitive.
If there is one drawback….well maybe it is not a drawback anymore actually! The bright yellow color of the boards is unmistakable. If you are shy, you won’t be for long with so many people asking about the boards. Especially in places where SUPs are not commonly seen. The color also looks terrific in photos. So what was once a “drawback” is something I have come to appreciate.
It's okay, the gators actually fear Justin.
AJ: How is it being a Glide SUP ambassador?
JH: It is a great relationship where I still can’t believe how great the people are and where upholding my end of the bargain is almost too good to be true. I really enjoy helping out with any Glide events in my area, namely Surf Expo. I always look forward to sharing my favorite FL paddle spots with anyone from the Glide extended family when they visit. I strive to promote SUP as something everyone can do; especially as a vehicle to experience some of Florida’s unique water environments. I always get a kick out of seeing all the different environments across the country that Glide boards are enjoyed in. To see someone on a mountain stream, or a tropical ocean, or a great salt lake…on the same board I am enjoying at a Florida spring is very cool.
AJ: What are your top 5 SUP destinations in Florida?
JH: There are so many here as we have such a lengthy coastline, rivers, lakes, estuaries and swamps. I will try and name some experiences that give you a taste of everything.
In no particular ranking:
- Paddling the Indian River Lagoon at night in the summer when the bioluminescence is lighting up the water.
- The Florida Keys have the clearest saltwater you will find in Florida and the only living coral reefs in North America. There are several Glide outfitters there and I would say it is the best saltwater SUP destination in Florida
- Weeki Wachee Spring Run – This may be the prettiest spring fed run to paddle in the state. It begins at a spring where there are literally mermaids and winds its way toward the Gulf of Mexico. Crystal clear turquoise water and white sands almost make it seem like you are floating on air instead of water. If you are lucky, manatees will enjoy the down current trip alongside you.
- Silver Springs is the largest spring in the state in terms of volume of water flow. The waters at the head spring are over 70 feet deep! The land around its banks has history as the setting for old Tarzan movies as well. In fact, there is a population of escaped monkeys that now live in the forests along its banks so keep your eyes open. The area is also a hot spot for seeing Florida Black Bear.
- Fisheating Creek is one of the last truly wild black water rivers left in the state. It lies in an area that is still undeveloped to this day. There is one launch on the entire river for something like 40 miles. The black water takes you into some of the thickest cypress swamps left in Florida. It is a timeless place where you will see a landscape that has not changed much in 1,000 years. Look for bald eagles, turkeys, alligators, and maybe a Florida Panther if you are very lucky.
AJ: Top 5 post SUP eats?
JH: As long as you are dining at the nearest mom-and-pop restaurant to your take-out point, you can’t lose. Eat local! If you see things like gator tail, fried green beans, catfish, collards, sour orange pie…anything southern I invite you to try it. And if I’m ever in a place where those options are not available, well you had better believe I will be on the lookout for tacos.
*If you are at Surf Expo this year, come by the Glide booth 1341 and say hello to Justin in person.
*For more info on Justin Hayskar check his Instagram: @jhayskar
*If you enjoyed reading this interview, feel free to share it on your social media outlets.