The Outer Banks: Linking the Chain

We do love a good backdrop here at Foiling Magazine, so when we were made aware of this pretty unique team session deep in Florida’s expansive wetlands, we got in touch with our old pal Louis Floyd and asked him to tell the tale, and not to leave out any alligator encounters…

Words: Louis Floyd
Photos: Garrett Cortese


As athletes we wait all year for that special moment where we all get to come together and see all the new product that is lined up for the following year that we’ve all been working so hard on in the flesh. For Slingshot, that was a few weeks ago and as usual the product did not disappoint. After the two years we’ve had between hurricanes in Florida cancelling Surf Expo and the unfortunate events with Covid this past year it was nice for us to all finally be together to have this experience. 

Myself, Jeff McKee, Dylan Miller, James Jenkins, and a few others had a couple of boats to take full advantage for a few days in the Clermont chain of lakes. I believe it’s close to 16 different lakes, all connected by canals. The unique thing about the Clermont Chain is the amount of cypress trees that surround the water. The tree roots have turned the water an almost brown Root Beer color.

Now, with living in Florida, especially during the summer, hurricane season is just something that comes with the territory. I mention this because the week before we were all supposed to get together, we got a warning for our first hurricane of the season. In the back of my mind I’m thinking “that’s it”, we’re going to have to cancel or we’re going to have to reschedule when everyone’s schedule lines up again because when it rains in Florida, it pours. Sometimes it rains for five minutes, sometimes it rains for five hours. I have to give it to McKee though, I think him being a Florida native means it’s in his blood with knowing how to predict the weather. The day after the storm that didn’t end up showing, we had perfect conditions. I guess you can take the man out of Florida, but you can’t take Florida out the man! So, we continued with the set team plans. 

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I knew most of the team members that were in town and have previously heard about and had seen James Jenkins killing the surf scene through social media. It wasn’t until I met James and saw his riding that I really appreciated the effort that he was putting into foiling. His style of riding is more like ocean surfing. Boat foiling was a little tame for him, it didn’t mean that he couldn’t show us his skills and pump circles around us. It’s always awesome meeting and seeing another teammate’s riding style. I feel as if riders who are used to riding behind the boat are a little spoilt with the means of having someone swinging back around and picking you up so you don’t work as hard when you get back up and pump the next wave. But, when you’re in the ocean, it’s better to stay on your feet and work your way back to the next wave, or at least that’s what it looks like when we’re watching the transition from a distance…

We aimed for the typical morning and evening light for shooting and trying out the upcoming gear, but it was during our downtime, hanging out during the day and exploring where we really got see the Clermont chain, and let me tell you I felt like I was taken out of what I’ve known and have seen before and had been thrown into a Steve Irwin movie. We went down canals where you needed to be up on plane because they were that shallow compared to where we had been before, and then when we traveled under the older bridges, we had to drop towers and take foils down because they were that narrow and tight. 

We went on an adventure where we started in your traditional lake and the next thing we knew, just one canal over, it changed drastically. Before we knew it all you could drive through was a winding strip complete with reeds and lily pads, making sure not to hit any stumps left over from the old fallen trees. It wasn’t a drive for an inexperienced boat driver. The views as a passenger were breathtaking though, the lily pads would play tricks on you, making you think there was an alligator chilling there but the only thing we saw whilst on our ride were a few turtles… Nonetheless it was an experience I would love to do again if given the chance! 

The weather in Central Florida is pretty predicable when it comes to wet weather. Normally, in the middle of the summer there’s an 80% chance that it will rain, so you always keep that in mind. Midday we could see that the weather was starting to change, so we stopped by the local slipway to grab some gas, meaning that we didn’t have to run back up to the house, out to the gas station and return hours later; it was done on the spot. We grabbed a few cold ones and tacos from the food truck and jumped back on the boats and headed out. The rain showed up, but we only got the outlying bands, and it made for an epic evening with some moody backdrops.

Around the corner from where we had started from that morning there was a group of trees that we were all eyeballing and all thinking the same thing. We loaded the ballast, got the foils out and started riding lines around and through the old cypress trees. After a few goes we got comfortable and started to figure out our lines through them. We all fell victim to roots we couldn’t see under the black water but no scraps… just some big laughs. We then linked a line, shared waves to get through some of the gaps and enjoyed the glassy water and epic sunset after an evening’s shower. We got back to where we parked the boats in complete darkness… pretty difficult to say the least, especially when you’re trying to find everything that needs to come off the boat. 

We spent a total of four days out on the chain, catching up with old friends that we don’t get to see that often, met some new ones and overall had a really great time. Team trips don’t happen all the time, but when they do we get to capture some magic because you get a group of people that are all trying to push something in all different directions. It’s awesome seeing everyone’s different riding style come together so cohesively and in unison, especially when new gear comes out. We got to test our skills on the water and really enjoy it all. It’s always a lot of fun encouraging your teammates or have them encourage you while riding and capturing some epic shots and moments. 

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