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Stand-Up Paddleboarding in South Walton

By Lindsey Rogers White sand and crystal-clear water aren’t all South Walton has to offer. In fact, all the other activities — fishing, horseback riding, hiking, bike riding — are what make this area so special and attractive to people of all kinds. One of the most popular activities among visitors and locals alike is stand-up paddle boarding, a relatively new activity involving what looks like an elongated surf board that users stand on and use a paddle to move across the water’s surface. Rent a board or book a paddle board tour! South Walton is an especially perfect place for the budding sport, which is something Jeff Archer stumbled on when he founded his company YOLO Board here in 2007. Archer said South Walton is one the best places to stand-up paddle because of the variety of beginner friendly water and the huge diversity of paddling experiences. With the Gulf of Mexico, the Choctawhatchee Bay, coastal dune lakes and rivers, you’ll never get bored of the scenery. Plus, South Walton’s climate allows for year-round paddling. “Stand up paddle boarding to Walton County is like snow skiing to Aspen or Breckenridge,” Archer said. Paddling in the gulf offers a paddler beauty in every direction and the opportunity to have a close-up encounter with species such as dolphins and sea turtles in their natural habitat. Archer suggests you paddle the gulf in the morning when it is flat because as the south winds arise it is more difficult to paddle. If you’re new to paddle boarding, the coastal dune lakes are for you.These lakes are mostly protected from the winds, which results in flat, smooth waters perfect for those first timers. You get the best of both worlds paddling in a coastal dune lake because the outfall will take you directly to the gulf when you’re ready to hit the beach. The Choctawatchee Bay, fresh water rivers and natural springs are other flat venues for paddling. The bay is located just north of U.S. Highway 98 while the springs are a little further drive. Morrison Springs in Ponce De Leon is Archer’s favorite spring to paddle. Paddling affects both the physical and mental well-being of the paddler, Archer said. Physically, it improves core strength and balance.  It also leads to better overall cardiovascular health. Plus, being out on the water can act as a mental release, providing exhilaration and time to get in touch with nature. Although it can be nice to spend some time alone, paddling is also a great activity to enjoy with friends and family. Archer likes distance paddles with his dog, Flea, paddle adventures with his friends and surfing expeditions with his son and brother. “It has allowed me to mix work and play in a seamless way that fits my lifestyle,” he said. This is a 360º video! Use your mobile device to pan around and see all angles of Camp Creek Lake! You may have to open it on the YouTube app for the full 360º effect. Rent a board or book a paddle board tour at 30atours.com. Lindsey Rogers is a summer intern with The 30A Company.  Read More


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Meet the Locals: Chris Cumby Shares His Secrets for Success

We have such a special community here, you often get the chance to meet someone on Scenic Highway 30-A who really makes you think. Cory Davis of 30A Radio had that opportunity recently when he got a chance a sit down with Chris Cumby, a Canadian-native-turned-30A-local and author of “The Success Playbook,” a book on discovering yourself and finding success, which is hitting shelves soon. Chris has a creative perspective on what you need to be successful in life, business and even here in South Walton. His knowledge ranges from the best food and beverage spots in South Walton to the benefits of finding a mentor (just wait until you hear who his is). This interview was prerecorded live at the 30A Radio Airstream at Gulf Place in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla. Special thanks to 30A Cottages & Concierge, Stinky’s Fish Camp and Coastal Insurance. Listen to the full interview here: For more information about Chris Cumby and his book, visit ChristopherCumby.com. Read More


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THURSDAY: Meet the Creative Team Behind ‘Goodnight 30A’ + A Special Offer

(Meet the author and illustrator of this colorful kids book Thursday, July 14, from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. at The 30A Store in Gulf Place! If you can’t make it, tune into 30A’s Facebook page for a live broadcast, a chance to win prizes and an exclusive offer for 30A Fans.) Grace Skertich had just given birth to her first baby when she unexpectedly became a children’s book author. She had three months maternity leave from her law firm in Memphis and a baby who never cried — something most moms can only dream of — and she hungered for a new project. Why NOT write a children’s book? It’s not something she’d ever dreamed of doing — or even thought of doing. But it wasn’t long before she and her husband, Ryan, had put their heads together, found an illustrator and were soon hard at work creating Goodnight Memphis. Their first book was published in August 2014 and was very well-received. In fact, Grace said she had so much fun doing it, she started to think about the next one. “The only other place in America I know as well as Memphis is 30A,” said Grace. That’s when Grace reached out The 30A Company to see if she could incorporate the iconic 30A logo into some of their illustrations. It was an easy sell. “The illustrations in Goodnight Memphis were so colorful and vibrant, and the draft of their 30A story was obviously heartfelt,” said 30A’s Mike Ragsdale. “We knew we’d be proud to have the 30A brand associated with the project.” Goodnight 30A was born. David Lynch, the book’s illustrator, starts each page with a big, blank canvas — literally. His bright, original paintings are then scanned in and sized down to become the pages of the book. “It’s really colorful and whimsical,” said Grace. “It’s not digitally created, and I think that’s one of the things that has made the book so successful. It’s truly a work of art.” Goodnight 30A features many famous local places and activities, especially family-friendly ones like Bud & Alley’s Pizza Bar, YOLO Boarding, The Red Bar, George’s at Alys Beach, Charlie’s Donut Truck, Frost Bites, Seaside, WaterColor, Rosemary Beach and Grayton Beach. Grace said she’s thrilled with how the book turned out and is excited for everyone to finally see it. “Never in a million years did I think I would be a children’s book author,” she said. “It was just sort of the perfect storm after practicing law for five years in a corporate setting, which can be kind of monotonous. I do love to write, but I’m typically writing legal briefs. This is much more fun.” Goodnight 30A is now available for purchase online. Also, check out these beautiful postcard packs made from the book’s artwork. CHECK OUT THIS INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR:   Read More

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THIS WEEKEND: Seeing Red Wine Fest – Nov 3-6

In just five weeks, wine enthusiasts can see red, white, and rosé in the beautiful, award-winning town of Seaside, Florida. The Seeing Red Wine Festival, produced in partnership with the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation, will celebrate it’s 26th year from November 3 – 6, 2016. The four-day festival, which has been recognized as one of the ‘Top 10 Can’t-Miss Fall Wine Festivals’ by Fodor’s Travel, will feature some of the world’s premier vintners, proprietors and beloved local chefs. Attendees can walk around Central Square while sipping on delectable wines in the iconic beach town of Seaside. Grab tickets before the event sells out! This year, The 30A Company is honored to be included in the festival and we will be featuring our new 30A Red Blend and 30A Chardonnay at the Grand Tasting on Sunday and the Charity Wine Auction Walkabout and Walkabout on Sunday. Please stop by and see us! Will Mercer, owner of Mercer Estates, the esteemed Washington-state winery where our 30A Wines are produced, will also be making an appearance at a special vintner dinner to kick off the festival Thursday night. Check out this 30A Radio interview highlighting the festival. Guests include Chef Jim Shirley, Bud & Alley’s owner Dave Rauschkolb, Kevin Boyle with updates on fall SEASIDE events and John Russell with the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation. Check out this video from the 2015 festival: “We are absolutely honored to partner with Seaside to produce this long-standing event,” said John Russell, president of Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation. “Many of these vintners have become our friends as we have been fundraising for children in need in Northwest Florida for 11 years. Building on the festival’s long-standing history coupled with the reputation of the Foundation, we’ve been able to include exclusive wines and rare varietals.” The four days of festivities include reserve wine tastings, dinners and a brunch with featured guest winemakers. Several of Seaside’s well-known restaurants showcase their farm-to-fork and Gulf-to-table offerings, which pair beautifully with the featured wines. The celebration kicks off Thursday, November 3, at 7 p.m. with the Vintner’s Dinner at the famed Bud & Alley’s restaurant. Executive Chef David Bishop has created a special menu in collaboration with Will Mercer of Mercer Winery, the featured vintner. A limited number of reservations are available, and reservations can be made by calling the restaurant. On Friday, November 4, the Al Fresco Reserve Tasting, from 6 to 8 p.m., is an elegant evening showcasing an incredible selection of library wines, featuring vintages that have been cellared to be uncorked at just the right time. An array of hors d’oeuvres will pair perfectly with the featured wines, in addition to Southern Artisan Chocolates made by Olive and Sinclair Co. The evening is complemented by live music under twinkling lights on Seaside’s Lyceum Lawn. The price per ticket for the Al Fresco Reserve Tasting is $250. A limited number of tickets are available. The Grand Tasting, from 1 to 4 p.m., on Saturday, November 5, is the main event and features more than 250 wines for tasting. Guests will spend the afternoon strolling through Seaside’s Central Square sipping an extensive array of highly sought after wines from around the world, while enjoying live music, light bites from South Walton’s leading local restaurants, and the opportunity to purchase wine on-site. General admission tickets are available at $175. VIP Grand Tasting ticket holders will receive early admission to the Grand Tasting at 12:30 p.m. for the first taste of the day as well as access to the VIP lounge at beginning at noon, which is furnished with local fare, an exclusive library of wines and libations. The VIP lounge will also feature a “meet and greet” with wine celebrities personally signing bottles of their premium wines featured at the festival. In addition, VIP check-in attendees will receive a Seeing Red Wine Festival cooler bag with festival merchandise. The price of VIP tickets is $325. On Sunday, November 6, the weekend wraps up with a Celebration of Bubbles, from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m., at Great Southern Café in Seaside, followed by the Charity Wine Auction & Walkabout, from 1 – 4 p.m. in Seaside on Lyceum Lawn. The Celebration of Bubbles features sparkling wines, including Champagne, Cava, and Prosecco, among others, which will be complemented by delectable brunch items. Live music and new friends make for a fun, festival morning on the coast. To reserve your spot, call Great Southern after November 1. From 1 – 4 p.m., the Fall Walkabout & Charity Auction will feature wines, food stations, live music and our famous “Hangover Station” with Bloody Marys and mimosas. The event is enhanced by a silent auction, featuring items such as rare wines, exclusive dinners, vacation packages, and artwork. This is truly a local’s favorite. Proceeds from the Seeing Red Wine Festival will be presented to the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation, which supports 14 local non-profits, serving children in need in Northwest Florida. The Foundation’s signature event, the Destin Charity Wine Auction, is held annually the last weekend of April at Grand Boulevard at Sandestin. In 2016, the auction raised $2.65 million for children in need and has been ranked among the top 10 charity wine auctions in the country by Wine Spectator Magazine for the last four consecutive years. Presenting sponsors for the 26th Annual Seeing Red Wine Festival include Coastal Living, The Merchants of Seaside, The Seaside Style, and 45 Central Wine Bar in Seaside. Free parking and shuttle service will be provided from the Publix at WaterColor Crossings on County Road 395. To purchase tickets and book special lodging packages, visit Seeing Red Wine Festival. Read More

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Camp 30A: A New Outdoors Adventure Camp For Kids

Looking for some fun for the kids? Camp 30A is the only outdoors adventures camp for children in South Walton. Held at Grayton Beach State Park, the day camp gives kids ages 6-12 a chance to explore the sand and the sea, the longleaf pine forest and the coastal dune lakes. Camp leaders take kids on paddle board adventures, kayaking, hiking and even snorkeling. Book your day camp now. Michael Harrison, the camp’s director, has worked with kids camps for over 20 years and always dreamed of starting his own. The area around Scenic Highway 30A seemed like the perfect spot. “At Grayton Beach State Park, we have the Gulf of Mexico, but not only that, we have the lakes, we have hiking,” Harrison said. “It really lends itself to a great, unique camp experience.” Harrison has always loved working with kids, especially when he can introduce them to something they haven’t experienced before, like snorkeling or kayaking. “If you’re showing them something that’s maybe a little different, something they haven’t done before, they’re going to be really enthusiastic,” he said. “And kids are just fun to be around.” Learn more and book your day camp online. Read More

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New Development Coming to Watersound Origins

The Watersound Company has announced a new development phase for the Watersound Origins community. The new phase should be complete by summer 2017. The phase will consist of 107 new lots adjacent to Watersound Origins’ activity center, the Village Commons. Home packages and lots will be available next summer—homes that are currently available in the community are listed in the mid-$400’s range. “We are thrilled for the new development phase of the Watersound Origins community,” said Bridget Precise, vice president of development. “In the last two years, we’ve seen almost 125 new homes built in the community, and we are excited to keep growing that number.” As part of this, the company is also planning a permanent realignment of the Watersound Trail, which will continue through the new phase. Spanning five miles between Walton and Bay County, the Watersound Trail winds through St. Joe’s timberlands, beginning at the Village Commons and then connects with Gayle’s Trails in the Panama City Beach Conservation Park. “We are proud to build a community that promotes a healthy, active lifestyle,” Precise said. “We are looking forward to reopening the Watersound Trail in 2017, which is accessible in the Watersound Origins community and open to the public for walking, jogging or bicycling.” These new additions will further enhance the unique outdoor amenities that are offered to Watersound Origins homeowners and to the surrounding community. For more info on home ownership opportunities, visit www.watersound.com or call 866-563-0070. Read More


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30A Bottle Caps Find Their Way Into Philadelphia Student Art Piece

By Caroline Giddis  We’ve all seen the iconic, round 30A stickers displayed on car bumpers and water bottles around the country, but 13-year-old Henri Waché prefers to show off his love of 30A by collecting a different trinket — bottle caps. “I first got a 30A bottle cap when I was in Grayton Beach a few years ago,” said Henri, who lives in Haverford, Pennsylvania. “They’re a reminder of our times at Grayton Beach and the community down there. My mom grew up in Fort Walton beach because my grandpa was an airforce pilot, so we come down every year.” The bottle caps look like miniature 30A stickers and bring a little bit of small-town beach life to Henri’s collection. Henri has been collecting bottle caps for three years — and he’s dedicated to the task. He doesn’t hesitate to dig through dirt and concrete to score a colorful cap. He loves the aesthetic differences between the logos and designs on each one and the memories that come along with it. “To me it’s not just a collection. I can really relate to every moment where I found one,” Henri said. “If anyone enjoys collecting something, I say go for it. I really think that collecting helps you to remember special moments.” Instead of letting his collection of hundreds of caps sit in a drawer or a jar, Henri wanted to make something with them. One summer, he created a colorful, spiral design and mounted it to a framed corkboard. “I wanted to display my collection in a different way so I thought making it into some sort of collage would be a good way to show all of them,” Henri said. “I enjoyed having my mind expand and really seeing what I could make with them.” Henri attends The Haverford School, a private school for boys, where his artwork was recently displayed during an alumni reception in the upper school, an opportunity he is very proud of. “My art teacher requested if anyone had done any artwork outside of school, and at first I hesitated, but they really embraced it and the upper schoolers loved it,” Henri said. Henri’s mother, Robin Waché, is a native to the South Walton area and very proud that her son used 30A caps in his artwork. “Every summer since my three children were born, we have managed to spend time in Grayton Beach,” Waché said. “Slowly but surely the word is spreading that the most incredible beaches on earth are situated along 30-A. Shhh….don’t tell too many more people,” Robin said. “We hope to savor our little paradise forever.” Read More