Paige Bakhaus used to hold down "normal" office jobs such as dental assistant and real estate agent.
Now she's a full-time standup paddleboard instructor and tour guide, a career move envied by anyone who enjoys spending sun-splashed workdays on Coral Creek, Gasparilla Sound and waters nearby.
Bakhaus was a big hit at the recent joint Business to Business Chamber meeting mingling with Boca Grande and North Port members. Her artistry and ability on the paddleboard, despite harassing 20-mph winds, were much in evidence.
Paige Bakhaus, paddleboard instructor
She said anyone ages 5 to 80 can do it and she's never - knock wood - ever failed to teach someone how to master the standup paddleboard. Here's how she does it:
QUESTION: What qualifies you to make a living teaching standup paddleboard techniques?
ANSWER: I have two certifications. I'm the only one in Charlotte County with two certifications. There are two governing bodies: the World Paddle Association and Paddlefit. Fitness pro Brody Welte of Paddlefit taught me. I'm also certified through the American Council on Exercise.
Paige Bakhaus at a glance
Residence: Moving from Sarasota to Placida
Birth date: April 3, 1967
Family: married two years with a 22-year-old son
Education: two years in college
Q: Do you need to be an athlete or in shape to do this?
A: I taught a woman who was 80 years old with lupus. She found me and said: "I want to try that." When she finally got up - it almost makes me cry now - you could see the light coming off her. She was so proud of herself and what she had accomplished that day.
Q: How many people have you gotten to stand on a paddleboard?
A: Oh, gosh. About 300. I've never, not yet, knock on wood, never failed yet. I've taught everyone from 5 to 80 years of age.
Q: Does it take terrific balance?
A: Everybody thinks that. Half the people I teach say they fall over their own feet, then they do great up on the board.
Q: Is standup paddleboarding a new sport?
A: Organized paddleboarding is new but it's not really a new sport. It's hundreds of years old. The Tahitians kind of started it, went to Hawaii, then it migrated to California. The organization of it is what's new.
Q: How did you get involved in standup paddleboarding?
A: My husband bought me a board three years ago. I was dying for one. I saw someone on one in Sarasota, but I'd never seen anyone else in our area do it before. The minute I got on it I was addicted.
A: It's just so calming. Paddling through the mangroves, the calm water, the dolphins and manatees, everything will come right up to you because you don't have a motor, nothing for them to be afraid of. Especially the manatees; they're really curious about the boards. They'll come right up to your board and stick their face up and look at you.
Q: How steep is the learning curve?
A: It's not that bad. You learn quickly out of necessity. I can teach you to stand up in about 90 minutes. In an hour-and-a-half I can have somebody feeling as if they are comfortable and could go out and rent a board by themselves. By the end of a 90-minute lesson, everyone is pretty good. They're not experts, they don't have their paddlestroke perfected, but that's not the goal. The goal is to have fun and just get out and enjoy nature.
Q: How expensive is the sport of upright paddleboarding?
A: This is something for those who cannot afford a boat to be able to get out on the water. Everybody has $60 that they can come learn how to do this on a lesson/tour.
Q: What if you really get into the sport and want your own paddleboard?
A: A paddleboard will run around $1,200 and a paddle is about an extra $100. When it's all said and done you're looking at $1,300.
Q: What are rental rates?
A: Renting is $35 for 90 minutes, $60 for a half day and $70 for a full day. And you can just take them off our ramp here and go anywhere you want. Or, we'll help you load them on your car and you can take them where you want.
Q: The upright paddleboard tours and instruction at Grande Tours began in November 2011. In five months, where has demand grown?
A: I'm pretty much busy every day of the week. I work every day by appointment although I will have to take some days off at some point.
Q: How did you convince Capt. Marian Schneider to take a flyer on paddleboarding?
A: She wanted to add paddleboarding to Grande Tour's arsenal of things they do. They did rent paddleboards before I got here but they didn't have an instructor. Without anyone to push or instruct on the paddleboards, it wasn't a big seller. She's smart enough to know what the next up-and-coming thing is. Because I was an expert in the area, she wanted to add me to Grande Tours.
Q: How long before upright paddleboards will be seen all around Gasparilla Island?
A: It has not come here to the point it has in Sarasota where you can see 25 paddleboarders on the water most every day. One of the things I'm excited about doing is getting to introduce paddleboarding to an area that hasn't seen it before.
Q: How important is getting the right-size board?
A: You have to right-size the board to the person. There's no general board for everyone. Boards vary in size from say 10-feet-6-inches to 12 feet and widths vary, too. You have to make sure you put the right person on the right board. It changes to whole game.
Q: What's new for this summer?
A: Yoga on boards starting May 12. You don't have to have any experience in yoga but you must know how to paddleboard because it's not a lesson.