USA. FLORIDA. SANIBEL ISLAND. Wil Compton is an accredited ASI SUP Instructor and the owner of Gulf to Bay SUP at Sanibel Island in Florida. He is a regular on the race competition scene and continues to achieve podium places despite competing against people 20+ years his junior. We spoke to him about his passion for the sport and his beloved SUP school.
How did you get involved with SUP?
“I was working at the National Shell Museum in Sanibel and after the first couple of days at work I saw the Director, a Brazilian, had this huge surfboard on his car. I said: “That’s a big surf board?” and he replied, “No it’s a SUP board”. I had an old windsurfer at home and a wooden board from my boat that was crooked. So, I went out on that, got up and fell, but paddled enough for me to fall in love with SUP. I’ve been surfing since the 70’s and I moved to Florida, but there are no waves here, so this was a perfect solution to get back on the water. I find paddling almost mystical. It calms the soul and gets me back to my inner self. “
What’s your background?
“I am an experienced sailor and licenced boat captain as well as a windsurfer and triathlete. I have travelled extensively and especially around the Bahamas and the US. I settled in Sanibel because my parents had a property here. “
Tell us about your SUP racing?
“I’ve always been competitive. I raced in Triathlon for 15 years and competed in over 100 events around the country. Since doing my ASI SUP training in 2013 I’m now passionate about racing SUP and despite racing against people 20 or more years younger I still manage to get regular podium finishes!
“I raced at Key West three years ago and came first in my age group. I just really enjoy competing. I also like to shape and build my own race boards and teaching boards, which has been a huge learning curve for me. “
Why did you start your own SUP School?
“When I did my training with ASI it gave me a validation in the waterman community here. I enjoyed the learning so much and wanted to pass that on. I started Gulf to Bay SUP as I love sharing information, it’s a gift from my heart. The SUP school is the apple of my eye. I also love the look on peoples face when they just get it. They start moving around confidently and understand it.”
What’s unique about Gulf to Bay SUP?
“When people first come to me I tell them about paddling and how cool it is and what you can see. We have amazing bird and fish life here. More than half of Sanibel Island is made up of wildlife sanctuaries with mangroves, stunning white beaches and crystal-clear waters. It’s simply stunning.
“I also have a strong focus on safety, which fits in with the values, structure and safety standards of ASI. I like to take people out to the local hideaways, to see sea and wildlife and I always ensure people are only taken out in the safest conditions. “
What’s the future hold for you?
“More SUP. To continue to introduce more people to the joy of SUP. Life is good. I’m really blessed.”
Gulf to Bay SUP School has been operating as an ASI Accredited SUP school since 2014. Try a taster session with Wil, have a guided tour or learn how to improve your paddling technique all at the simply stunning location of Sanibel Island.
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