North Guana Outpost hosts inaugural Paddlefest, party benefiting HEAL Foundation

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The North Guana Outpost (NGO) is a small, family-owned outfitters store located on Mickler Road in Ponte Vedra Beach suited for paddleboarding, kayaking and fishing enthusiasts. May 24 of this year marks its five-year anniversary and to celebrate, NGO held its inaugural Spring Paddlefest on Saturday at the GTM Reserve, along with a customer appreciation and post-race after party in their own store.

Gail Ingalls is the co-owner of the NGO alongside her daughter, Lauren Ingalls.

“Lauren and I run it,” Gail Ingalls said. “We sell kayaks, paddleboards, clothing, bait and tackle, we even have offshore stuff and Hyppo pops! My son, Brandon, does fishing charters from here. And that’s Tank. He’s our greeter.” 

Tank is the family dog and is the fluffiest greeter an outfitters store has ever employed. 

“We had 75 paddlers, which is awesome,” Gail said. “We had a 3-, 6- and 8-mile race. This is the post-party, anniversary party and customer appreciation night.” 

All proceeds from the event supported the Ponte Vedra Beach-based HEAL foundation, helping enrich autistic lives.

Competitors travelled from across the country to compete, including a number of internationally ranked paddlers. One of them was Eri Tenorio from Brazil, who is the 21st fastest paddler in the world. 

“At least three paddlers were in the top 100 of the world, and Eri was the best by far,” said Jim Ingalls, Paddlefest organizer and Gail Ingalls’ husband. “He had to go back because he flies to Europe for the European tour tomorrow. 

Jaime Smyth, an Atlantic Beach paddleboarder who participated in the 8-mile race, said that competing in flat water was much more difficult than meets the eye, or in his case, the paddle. 

“When I heard it was flat water, I was like, ‘Oh, I’m going to go out there and crush it and I didn’t,’” Smyth said in good sport and humor. Smyth normally paddles out at sea. “I was surprised by the shallow water and how that slowed me down. And the head wind, we turned around and the wind just whacked us. 

“I got my butt whooped by my buddy, Val (Stepanchuk),” Smyth continued. “He’s quite an accomplished paddler. It’s always good to have somebody to chase.” 

Other paddlers traveled from Michigan, Georgia and all over Florida, including Tampa, St. Augustine, Jacksonville and Stuart, a small city with a big reputation in paddling. 

Stuart is home to the paddleboard company, the Flying Fish Paddle Sports. With the NGO being a retailer, it’s only fitting that the company’s paddle boarding team came to compete.

“We’ve been connected with the owner and builder of these boards,” Jim said, referring to the Flying Fish owner, John Meskauskas. “He’s really helped mentor us and this shop and all the operations, all things paddleboards.”

Apparently, the mentoring is paying off. North Guana Outpost’s inaugural Spring Paddlefest was a success. Not only did the proceeds go to HEAL, but it brought visitors to the natural beauty of the GTM Reserve, where guests enjoyed the water, and where Gail Ingalls hopes more will visit after this event. 

“The Guana Preserve is amazing with all its wildlife,” Ingalls said. “It’s so serene. Many that live around here don’t even realize what we have. It’s special, so get out on the water. We have a launch right in our backyard. Tank will set you up!” 

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