Go paddle boarding in the mangroves around Key West these days and it’s likely that you might catch a glimpse of something a little more risqué than your average starfish or stingray. Nomadic SUP, started in 2013 by the husband-and-husband team of Ryan Saca and Cody White, offers a full range of paddleboard programming but some of their trips have a twist — the option to explore nature au naturel, a rarity in the paddle boarding world. “We want our customers to feel free to be free out in nature and that is a service that sets us apart from other SUP businesses in Key West and most of the world,” Cody says.
Ryan and Cody have been permanent residents of Key West since 2013, having lived practically all over the country before deciding to call Key West home. Ryan was born and raised in Fremont, Calif., a suburb 40 minutes from San Francisco. Cody was born in Urbana, Ohio, a small town just outside of Columbus, but spent his youth in multiple towns in the New England area.
As Ryan recounts their history, “After an endless three-year-long string of warm-weather travels, I decided I was in need of a change of season. So, in the fall of 2005, I moved up to Lake Tahoe for the winter. My original plan was to stay for six months and move back to Santa Cruz, but I stayed for five years.”
A year later, in the fall of 2006, Cody moved to Lake Tahoe. He had spent the previous year living in Western Samoa working for a therapeutic program. When he returned to the United States, he found himself briefly in Washington, D.C., working in corporate retail, during which time he planned his escape back to the Sierra Mountains. When Cody moved to Lake Tahoe, he started working for the ski company where Ryan was employed. “We met in the shipping warehouse,” Ryan remembers. “Shortly thereafter, I invited him on our first ‘date’ to a monster truck rally in Reno with some friends and that was that. Almost 10 years later, we got married here in Key West on the Schooner Hindu.”
It wasn’t until a few years later that the two were really exposed to the world of standup paddleboarding, or SUP. “The summer of 2008 brought the introduction of SUP to Lake Tahoe,” Ryan says. “That summer, we started to notice a couple people paddling on the lake and coming into town with boards strapped to the top of their cars. The kayak rental companies also started to incorporate a few boards into their rental fleets. The summer of 2009 was like a SUP explosion. Rental companies were now carrying equal numbers of boards and kayaks, it seemed like nearly every other car had a set of boards strapped on top, and people were standing on the water everywhere you went.”
That same summer, Cody went to the Finger Lakes region in Central New York to visit family. Compared to Lake Tahoe, the absence of SUP from the myriad of waterways in the area was notable. Knowing how popular the sport was becoming, Cody had the brilliant idea to introduce SUP to the Finger Lakes, and in the spring of 2010, Ryan and Cody moved to New York and opened Finger Lakes Paddleboard.
In October 2010, after paddle boarding season had ended in New York, the pair traveled to Key West for the winter. “We had bought and were living in our 1973 Airstream trailer and were looking to get away from the central New York winter,” Ryan recalls. “We wanted to spend the winter somewhere we knew we could paddle year-round, and Key West was the farthest south we could drive. Neither of us knew much about Key West except it had some gay culture and a festival named Fantasy Fest that, judging by the pictures online, looked like it might be some fun.
“We arrived less than a week before Fantasy Fest and put out some resumes at the gay guest houses almost immediately,” Ryan continues. “Our first two events of Fantasy Fest were a thong paddle, where we went for a sunset paddle wearing G-string underwear, and the Zombie Bike Ride. It was during those two events that we met a lot of the people we are still close friends with today and who played a large part in our returning the next winter and eventually staying on this quirky little island.”
In 2014, Ryan and Cody sold Finger Lakes Paddleboard and moved to Key West full-time. “Ultimately, we started Nomadic SUP because we fell in love with the abundant waterways full of life in the Keys and wanted to share that love with others,” Cody explains. “We really enjoyed the seclusion and the feeling of being out in the middle of nowhere that you get when you are just a few miles outside of Key West, and that is what we want to give to our customers. We also strive to make it as easy as possible for our customers to get that experience, which is why we offer pick-up service for our ‘side country’ tours and we also have a convenient dock location at the Garrison Bight for our back-country boat charters.”
Though they have only been full-time residents for a couple of years, Ryan and Cody seem like they have Key West in their veins. “Our favorite things about Key West are the people and the strong sense of community that thrive here,” Ryan stresses. “Never have we lived in a place where the ‘One Human Family’ motto is not only voiced but can actively be seen in the actions of the people who live here. We have been fortunate to be involved in and support beach cleanups, Sister Season, AIDS Help, and the Special Olympics, to name a few.
“The overwhelming support this community gives to creativity and the arts, and the ease with which you can get involved, is a unique and beautiful thing,” Ryan continues. “Since our time here, we have had the pleasure of being involved with burlesque, theater, dance, building moving bike sculptures for the Zombie Bike Ride and Papio’s Kinetic Parade, a Mardi Gras Krewe, the TSKW Slideshow series, leather crafting, tons of costuming, and more. We feel incredibly lucky that life has brought us to Key West and thankful that the island community has embraced us with open arms.”
And Ryan and Cody have embraced Key West right back. ¦
If you’re interested in the programs that Nomadic SUP has to offer and want to get out on the water, in the buff or fully clothed, visit www.nomadicsup.com or call (305) 395- 9494.