Beaufort Paddle is a family owned & operated kayak & paddle board rental company. Its owner Rod Hoell, is an experienced kayaker, paddle boarder, surfer & boat captain with a world of experience on these waters. He is also a very friendly and accommodating person, as is his staff. Beaufort Paddle Company has both single & tandem ocean kayaks (sit-on-top) and paddle boards for half day, full day and multi-day rentals. If you are a novice or wish to improve on your current skills, they also provide instruction (see their website for details). You can launch from their private dock or have the equipment delivered to your location (see their website for details). They will provide you will all of the safety equipment & gear you will need for an awesome experience. However, if you are bringing your pet, it must be on leash and you must provide your own PFD for your pet. The Rachel Carson Reserve has a very strict leash policy. If your pet is off leash, you could get fined $500. You need to bring water, clothes that can get wet, water shoes, a hat, sun screen & bug spray. You also need to fill out a waiver form beforehand. If you have any questions, check the FAQ section on their website.
My adventure with Beaufort Paddle was on a beautiful sunny but somewhat windy day in early April. I rented an ocean kayak (sit-on-top), which typically isn't my kayak of preference. I prefer a sit-in kayak because they usually track much easier, especially in windier conditions. However, it is important to note that Rod buys new ocean kayaks every year, so this was a new ocean kayak. The seat was extremely comfortable which is so important in any kayak. I brought my own PFD and paddle (Aqua Bound Tango 4-piece with a carbon handle) because it is super light weight and easy to travel with. My guide was Sara. Sara is an excellent guide who is extremely knowledgeable about the area including the Rachel Carson Reserve. We left the protected harbor and ventured into more open waters. This was challenging because we were exposed to some strong winds which made it more difficult for us to keep our kayaks pointed in the direction we wanted to go. However, we were able to use our strong paddling skills to get to our destination, an island where wild horses reside. We beached our kayaks, drank some water and then ventured off on a hike to see if we could find the wild horses. There was solid evidence that they were in the vicinity at some point as we followed the hoof prints in the sand. Along the way, we came upon some perfectly circular holes that were made by Stingrays that came ashore to eat crabs. I never would have known that that's what they were until Sara explained to me what they were and why. We followed a trail and saw more evidence that the horses were there but still no horses. Once we reached the area where they normally feed, we spotted them far down the beach but couldn't get close enough for a good picture. Unfortunately in early April, the wild horses have to move around to get enough food. Sara explained that once everything becomes green and plentiful they would be eating right along the shoreline while you paddle by. However, you need to keep a minimum distance of 50 feet away from the horses. Timing is everything! Sara and I hiked back to our kayaks and then headed back to Beaufort Paddle's dock. On the way back, once again we had to battle some winds that again pushed our bows and forced us to adapt our paddling. Ocean kayaks do not edge like sea kayaks because they are heavier & wider which gives them more stability. I think if we had some weight in the bow, it might have been easier to keep our kayaks in our desired direction. A tandem kayak might have been easier because of the weight of both paddlers. In spite of the wind conditions, it was an awesome experience. The scenery was amazing and Sara was a terrific guide. Although Beaufort is a small town, it has a lot to offer. I'm so glad I made the trip and met some wonderful people at Beaufort Paddle. I look forward to a return trip to see if we can get closer to the wild horses and experience more of the Rachel Carson Reserve.
Oceans are good boats, but Beaufort Paddle's boat of choice is the Perception Tribe 11.5 and 13.5. The Perception has a deeper keel and forefoot and tracks much better. Fall of 2020 had Perception in “Covid turmoil” and unable to fill orders. Beaufort Paddle sells their fleet every year and orders new boats. They had their sale and called their rep…(they won’t make that mistake again!)
Ocean along with some friends at West Marine were able to get Beaufort Paddle a fleet for the 2021 season. So they placed their order last fall with Perception for their basic fleet, 30 boats. And as a backup also ordered a fleet from Ocean.
Both are sit on tops, but very stable. Their average customer is not very experienced, 20% have never paddled!