Written By Derek Herscovici | Photography By Gabriel Burgos
There’s a way to stay in shape while taking in the city’s waterfront sights, but you won’t be standing on any sidewalks.
Urban Kai, a fitness-focused paddleboard and kayak company, takes guests around the Bay for classes like Yoga on the Water, a core conditioning Kai Water Fitness class, the mixed land and water Warrior Zen Workout and a Better Balance Workout.
“I love getting off the sidewalk and onto the water and just having the space to enjoy the environment,” said co-founder and owner Aimee Conlee. “It’s really pretty out there, especially when a dolphin will come right up by you as you’re paddling by.”
Urban Kai is kid-friendly. Visit urbankai.com to learn about classes and summer camp.
Conlee started Urban Kai in 2010 with her husband, athletic trainer and board-sport enthusiast Mike. At the time, Tampa’s Downtown waterfront was still developing, but the Conlees recognized the potential for water-based exercise classes early on.
“Everyone kept asking where to get boards, but you had to drive all the way over to St. Pete to the beach to find anything. That’s when we decided to start Urban Kai.”
All classes at Urban Kai are taught by cross-trainers and yoga instructors certified for at least 1,000 hours completed. “We just think it’s important to know how your body works when you’re instructing people with activities [on the water].”
Originally located on the Hillsborough River’s western shore near Rick’s On The River, Conlee said the boat traffic and narrow space made paddleboarding difficult. A year ago they moved Urban Kai near the entrance to the Gandy Bridge on Tampa Bay, a no-wake zone perfect for beginning a trip that could go as far as nine miles away.
Urban Kai now has two locations – one by the Gandy Bridge in St. Petersburg and one next to the Sail Pavilion on the Tampa Riverwalk. Paddleboarders embarking from Downtown Tampa can explore along Davis and Harbour Islands. Across the bridge, you can visit the east coast of St. Pete and the Weedon Island Preserve.
“The water by St. Pete Beach and on the east coast can have a lot of chop, so it can be difficult some times in the Gulf, but Tampa Bay is so calm a lot of times, especially on the backside of mangroves or in between buildings,” Conlee said.
Urban Kai’s Riverwalk location is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and Monday through Friday by reservation only. The Gandy location is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.