“Are you having fun?” 16-year-old Sage Offutt asked with a smile as she pulled up next to me on her teal-colored scooter. Her long, strawberry-blonde hair was loosely tied up in a bun on top of her head and she wore a tie-dyed T-shirt which read, “Just Livin’ the Dream.”
Giving her a thumb’s up and probably looking like a bobblehead because of the large, white helmet I was wearing, I nodded yes and quickly focused on the road ahead. A year or so ago, I participated in Bert’s Black Widow Harley-Davidson’s Riding Academy in Port Charlotte and rest assured, the roads are a safer place because I failed the class. Twice.
Failing bruised my ego and since then, the thought of riding anything motorized with two wheels frightened me. The best way to conquer fear is to face it head on and that’s what I did during a trip to Navarre Beach in the Florida Panhandle.
I hopped on a scooter and rode like the wind. Topping speeds of 20 mph while driving along gorgeous beachfront on my way to the powder-soft, white sand beach of the Santa Rosa Area of Gulf Islands National Seashore, I felt as though I was racing on Germany’s Autobahn. The ride along the Gulf of Mexico was a success with no incident and a piece of my confidence was restored.
The teal-colored, sassy scooter rental was from Sage Paddle Company in Navarre Beach, a company launched in 2013 by then 11-year-old Sage Offutt. Her parents, brother, and she relocated Santa Rosa Island from Colorado and her father, Austin, told her she needed to find something to do. She and her family paddle boarded in the Gulf of Mexico and noticed there wasn’t a place for vacationers and others to rent them. The then pre-teen borrowed $5,000 from her father and a business was born.
“I’ll give you $5,000 to buy six paddle boards,” Sage said as she recalled the conversation with her father, “and if you can pay us back for half of it by the end of the summer, we will call that a good deal and a good lesson.”
Seventeen days later, the young entrepreneur paid back her father in full and 14 days later she purchased a golf cart to haul the equipment to renters.
“The first year I walked up and down the 3 miles of beach every single day and passed out cards to everybody. People weren’t nice. People were rude,” she said about launching her paddle board company and how she marketed it the first year, “But my dad told me, ‘if you do this every single day you will see it hit autopilot and it will be worth it,’ so I did.”
Listening to her father’s advice paid off. Each year, Sage added to her rental fleet. The second year, she added more paddle boards and kayaks, the third and fourth year she added beach cruiser bicycles, and this year, the fifth year, she added scooters. She also moved into an office and opened Sage’s Snack Shack, a casual place to tame the beach munchies such as ice cream, smoothies, and hot dogs. There’s even a mascot, a Frenchie bulldog named Oliver.
Sage is not old enough to vote, purchase alcohol, nor own a business. She co-owns Sage Paddle Company with her mother, Linda Joy. Both parents work for Sage, along with about a half-dozen friends from as far as Colorado during the summer season. The teen joked, “Mom gets fired usually on a daily basis,” and “Dad doesn’t get fired but he quits sometimes.”
Sage Paddle Board is the largest independent rental company in the Navarre Beach area. Florida Gov. Rick Scott honored Sage in 2016 with the Young Entrepreneur Award, an award created in 2015 to recognize entrepreneurs under the age of 35. In 2017, the governor recognized Sage and her company in his annual State of the State address when emphasizing the importance of jobs tourism supports in Florida.
Surfing and paddle boarding are her preferred activities but Sage also has an affinity for vintage cars and owns three including a 1974 Acapulco Volkswagen and a 1960 Chevy pickup is en route. She also has a vintage bus (I didn’t catch the specific model or year), she had her eye on it for two years and every six months, she offered the owner $5,000 less than asking, because Sage’s father told her people’s financial situations change. Two years later, she purchased this vehicle for $20,000 less than asking price. Smart woman!
Sage will graduate high school in 2019 and is planning to attend High Point University in North Carolina because, as she and her father told me, the school’s motto is “Chose to be extraordinary.” She plans to double major in pre-medical and entrepreneurship with a goal to attend medical school. As for the future of Sage Paddle Company, she has a plan to keep it running while away at school and will return to work the summers.
I asked Sage if she has any words of wisdom for young girls and she told me she and a friend recently spoke to two little girls. These girls said high schooler and middle schoolers are already getting into drugs and feeling like they need to prove themselves to other people and other kids. Sage said she assured these girls not everyone is taking drugs and, “You can be your own person, you don’t need to be like someone else in order to be well known and popular,” then added people should be kind… “kindness goes a long way.”
In many ways, Sage is the typical teenager but rather than building sandcastles on the beach, she has built and continues to build a successful business. Sage Paddle Company is where she and her customers can live the dream.
Nuts & Bolts About Sage Paddle Company and Navarre Beach, Florida
Sage Paddle Company
8228 Gulf Blvd.
Navarre, FL 32566
Tel: (850) 396-3044
Rent paddleboards, kayaks, beach cruiser bicycles, and scooters.
Where to Stay
ResortQuest by Wyndham Vacation Rentals
8478 Gulf Boulevard
Navarre FL 32566-7220
Visit the Santa Rosa County Tourism Website for additional lodging options www.getrelaxing.com.
Where to Eat
Wind Jammers on the Pier
8579 Gulf Blvd.
Navarre Beach, FL 32566
Tel: (850) 710-3239
Start with Jammer’s street corn, a take on Mexican street corn, and try the seafood tacos.
The restaurant is located right next to the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier which is 1,545 feet long and 30 feet above the water. Walk the pier for $1 between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m. during the summer
Slippery Mermaid Sushi Restaurant
8779 Navarre Parkway
Navarre, FL 32566
Tel: (850) 621-2119
Try the Crazy Mermaid Roll. If you’re not into raw fish, several rolls have cooked meat including the Steeler Pleaser that has steak and bacon.
Beach House Bar and Grille
SpringHill Suites Navarre Beach
8375 Gulf Blvd.
Navarre, FL 32566
Tel: (850) 684-6036
The restaurant is located in the new beachfront SpringHill Suites and the restaurant looks over the hotel’s lazy river. and the gorgeous white-sand beach of Navarre Beach. My lunch entrée of choice is the blackened grouper sandwich.
Disclosure: I was a guest hosted by the Santa Rosa County Tourism Council however opinions are my own. This post has not been reviewed by the tourism office. This post also contains affiliate links in order to support this blog, my traveling habit, and my special-needs dog.