Ask a friend, “What’s Florida like?” and they’ll say something like this: “Florida’s got wonderful sandy beaches; luxury hotels; tons of shopping malls; golf courses; sunshine; orange groves; great weather; Disneyworld, of course…and the Everglades.”
They’d be correct…but only partly so. They’d be describing the costal Florida, the tourist Florida, the commercially developed Florida — the popular, modern, manmade Florida within a few miles of its 1,200 statute mile coastline — the attractions that make Florida the #1 travel destination in the world and draw 1,000 new residents each day!
Exploring the vanishing Florida
The common conception of Florida skips right over the native, natural, original Florida with its more than 11,000 miles of waterways, rivers, and streams…its savannas and salt marshes…its groves of longleaf pine, saw palmetto, mangroves…its crocodiles, sea turtles, manatee, bald eagles…and many more rarities that make up a wild and little known Florida.
That’s the secret side of Florida that award winning photographer, Richard Auger, captures in his remarkable photographs…with help from his Sea Eagle 370.
Boating deep into Florida’s native wilds
“I started as a landscape photographer,” Richard tells us. “I’m currently working on a photo documentary of Florida’s water ecosystems, titled ‘Florida 67.’ I’m creating one of the last records of the original Florida.” His series explores and documents the “wild Florida, the Florida off the beaten path,” says Richard. “This is Florida as it was before parking lots and malls.”
Where is the wild Florida? It’s miles away from civilization and the best way to get there is by kayak. “Even when you go to State Parks,” says Richard, “You may have to kayak several miles to see Florida in its pristine form.”
On a mission
Though he’s a professional photographer on a mission by boat, Richard chose Sea Eagle for the same reasons many recreational boaters do. “I needed a boat that was easily portable. The performance is great. It’s light, easy to turn, great on narrow rivers. I can dodge branches and obstacles easily. I’ve traveled many miles on many of Florida’s rivers in my Sea Eagle 370 and I love it,” he says.
Like other Sea Eagle boaters, Richard goes places where the only boat available is the one you bring with you. “I go to remote places where you can’t rent a kayak within 25 miles,” he says. “I’m on the road a lot and carrying a big, hard hull kayak with me isn’t practical — I’m already bringing a lot of stuff with me.”
“I got Interested in inflatables and looked at Sea Eagle’s website on the internet. Sea Eagle looked the nicest. No crazy colors, good reviews. I realized I could keep it in my pickup truck, always there for spontaneous adventure or anytime I want to pull off the road. Since I bought my Sea Eagle, I have gone on lot more rivers.”
Richard chose the 370 with deluxe seats. “I thought about the Sea Eagle FastTrack , a large, sleek, fast, light, more rigid inflatable kayak but I ended up with the larger of the lowest priced Sea Eagles.” His 370, at 12’ 6”, is almost a foot and a half longer than the smallest Sea Eagle, the Sea Eagle 330. The 330 is rated for two passengers; the 370 for three. “I can inflate it in just 10 minutes. As I’m setting it up or taking it down, I see other boaters with hard kayaks rigging their hard hull kayaks on roof racks — it takes them 25 minutes.”
Richard’s cargo includes thousands of dollars worth of photo equipment so boating stability is critical. He keeps his camera in a waterproof case, and says, “The boat’s stability is excellent. I’m constantly getting in and out. Other kayaks turn over easily but Sea Eagle is solid in the water.”
“When I’m on the river, people as me two questions. First, ‘What are you doing?’ And second, ‘What kind of boat is that?’” Most people don’t know you can buy a pro-grade kayak affordably. I recommend it because it’s the easiest, most portable, most maneuverable boat I’ve found. Everything about it has been good.”
For a striking view of Florida as it was, visit Richard’s website or check out his booth at one of the many Florida weekend art festivals where he shows and sells his photos. Or, if you want to see “wild Florida” with your own eyes, kayak deep into Florida’s remote backwater water system. You might just run into Richard and his Sea Eagle.
Richard Auger is a full-time fine-art photographer and workshop educator with a Masters Degree from Florida State University. Richard documents Florida’s woodlands in a traditional black and white photo processes. His most recent work in black and white is titled ‘Florida Noir Series’.
Do YOU have Sea Eagle boating photos and stories to share? E-mail (link here) us. Our blog readers want to know!