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URBAN ADVENTURE: Caribbean Day-Cay

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Kenny the Suntan Man (right) joins his staff on the sand. This June On the Beach Watersports celebrated its 20 year anniversary at its location in Pompano Beach.

By Danielle Charbonneau

Stepping out onto the sand and approaching the tiki hut for On the Beach Watersports is like stepping into a teletransporter with a direct flight to a remote island in the Caribbean. A rainbow-colored, 27-year-old parrot named Sarah squawks as she dangles upside down from a stick suspended from the beachside stand. You can smell coconut oil and citrus as Kenny the Suntan Man demonstrates his homemade lotions for a guest. Tropical frozen drinks are served from the poolside tiki bar, guests lounge under beach cabanas and the skin-drying sensation of saltwater hangs heavy in the ocean breeze. The sun-warmed sand beckons you to slip off your sandals and dig in your toes.

If you’re looking for a Caribbean-style vacation without going very far, then taking a daytrip to On the Beach Watersports is the perfect getaway. The beachside vendor behind the Wyndham Royal Vista resort provides everything a tropical day should — relaxation, intoxication, excitement and leisure. There are jet skis, kayaks, standup paddleboards, cocktails, sail boats, cabanas and, of course, Sarah the Parrot.

You’ll be greeted by Kenny the Suntan Man, a charismatic and chatty New Yorker who has worked for the beachside vendor since 1983 and started his own suntan lotion line in 1985. Kenny hadn’t intended on being in the suntan lotion business, but when the resort he was working for at the time promised to provide free suntanning products for the Miss Florida pageant and bailed last minute, Kenny stepped in.

“Two weeks later I was in Miami searching for a chemist. That’s when I picked up the name, The Suntan Man and started Under the Sun lotions,” Kenny said. Now Under the Sun products are sold online, in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean islands and various spots in the U.S. On the label is Sarah’s predecessor, a parrot named Trigger. Kenny has been in the suntan and beach activity business ever since. On the Beach Watersports celebrated its 20 year anniversary at its current location on the first of June.

“Basically what we do here is we show people what the proper use of suntan lotion is. We teach people how to tan safe in South Florida and enjoy their vacation. And we set the customers up with all the services they could want,” Kenny said. “We have jet skis, paddle boards, kayaks, sail boats, cabanas and chairs. We keep our prices low. A chair is only $5 for the day or $20 for the week.”

Kenny said many of his customers are locals.

“We get a lot of families that come every weekend. They live in the area and will walk over. The patio bar is open everyday from noon to closing,” he said.

Kenny is not the only longtime employee working around On the Beach Watersports. Tony has been working there for almost 18 years (since he was 18), Henry has been there for three, the bartender at the tiki bar, Susie, for 19 and Sarah the parrot for 18. It’s easy to tell why. On the Beach Watersports is a little oasis.

For my July Urban Adventure, Kenny invited me to help On the Beach Watersports celebrate their 20th anniversary. I took the opportunity to get my adrenaline fix on a jet ski. Kenny hooked me and my boss up with two four-stroke jet skis, Henry instructed me on how to work the beast, and I was off.

Being on the jet ski reminded me a little bit of the last time I was on a mechanical bull, only this time I was in the middle of the ocean and could control the trashing myself. The ocean was choppy, so my new sea bull bucked up waves and crashed back down. My thighs burned as I hovered above the seat. As I pulled the throttle all the way down and gunned across the water, my arms tensed and I had trouble keeping a straight line. I squinted my eyes as the ocean water whipped my face. The feeling was exhilarating.

Unfortunately, there’s a fairly contained space in which jet-skiiers can cruise, so the path is pretty much a zig-zag, back-and-forth track, but with enough speed and dare, the experience is still pretty gratifying. If jet skiing isn’t enough adventure for you, On the Beach Watersports also makes daily trips out to the Everglades for airboat rides and gator shows.

“We have a shuttle bus that picks people up anywhere in South Florida within a ten mile radius of us.” said Kenny. “We bring people out to the Everglades to Holiday Park. We let the gator boys do the gator show.”

On the Beach Watersports opens daily at 9am and closes between 6 and 7 at night in the summertime. Learn more online at onthebeach.ws. You can also order Kenny’s Under the Sun products at underthesunskincare.com. On the Beach Watersports is located at 1110 S. Ocean Blvd. in Pompano Beach.

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