Our tour guides are all about sharing happiness!
Our little family of tour guides is composed of expert naturalists and certified paddling instructors who have dedicated their lives to exploring and educating others about our watery world. Each guide has deep local roots and unending love for this area. And they have plenty of formal education under their belts as well with Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral degrees in marine science, environmental science, biodiversity & conservation, and health & recreation. Check out each member of our team below.
Shane is Happy Paddler’s co-founder and veteran tour guide, with nearly two decades of guiding experience. He is a Florida native with roots in this sandy soil as deep as longleaf pines. In fact, his grandfather’s uncle was elected Governor of Florida way back in 1917. Shane is a certified naturalist with the University of Florida and an American Canoe Association (ACA) level 3 Coastal Kayaking Instructor. His depth of knowledge and passion for this beautiful part of the world send his tours to the next level. @shanecatts
Happy Paddler’s co-founder and captain of the ship. Holly is a true Conch – that is, one of the proud few born in tiny Key West, Florida. After earning her Ph.D. in Marine Science at the University of South Florida, Holly served as a fisheries biologist for the State of Florida for nearly ten years. Because of her fisheries background, she’s the go-to person for identifying the fish and invertebrates found on the tours. Holly is the the coordinator for all of Happy Paddler’s citizen science projects. She is an ACA level 2 SUP Instructor and leads paddleboard trips and lessons. @happyhollyrolls
One of our veteran tour guides, Alan has been on the water all his life: paddling, boating, fishing, and snorkeling. Born and raised in Sarasota, he’s a former lifeguard and has coached almost every sport out there. Alan earned his Bachelor’s degree in Health, Fitness, & Recreation from Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC. Alan is an avid photographer and loves traveling to ‘middles of nowhere’ to capture amazing shots of wildlife, landscapes, and people. When he’s not out paddling with us, he’s probably on another Kenyan safari or skiing the Rockies. @alan.mcnaughton
Born and raised in Sarasota, Sophie is an accomplished adventurer. She studied Global Public Health and Environmental Science at NYU. In 2016, Sophie was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to pursue graduate studies in Australia. She holds a 200-ton Captains License and has participated in research expeditions all over the Caribbean, Central America, and South Pacific. Sophie is a proud member of The Royal Geographical Society and was the winner of the 2017 Explorer’s Club’s prestigious ‘New Explorer of the Year’ award. @captsophie
Nick has led paddling tours for over 10 years and brings a good-humored vibe to every group he paddles with. Originally from Minnesota, Nick has been a visitor of Florida for many years and is now enjoying year-round life around the Sarasota Bay waters. He has a background in theater and education and is a master comic and magician. When he’s not on the water with us, he likes to travel with his wife and dog. @
Casey is a true ‘salt of the earth’ guide with a lifetime of experience exploring and fishing our local inshore waters. He has genuine expertise in kayak and SUP fishing using both spinning and fly rods. Most importantly, he knows the very best fishing holes. His range of knowledge goes way beyond fishing, with an incredible understanding of the connected nature of the entire marine ecosystem. Regardless of what type of adventure you are after, Casey will deliver an epic trip.
Jake’s energy and passion for adventure is truly contagious. Originally from Michigan, Jake is certified through the American Canoe Association as a Level 2 Essentials of Kayak Touring Instructor. His athletic background and interest in helping people pursue healthy and active lives led him to Western Michigan University, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Human Performance and Health Education. When not on the water with Happy Paddler, Jake leads kayak tours at Mackinac Island and promotes kayaking as a high quality and respected form of lifetime fitness. @iveyvoyages
Cary has guided kayak and whitewater rafting trips from North Carolina to Key West and plenty of experience both on and off the water. Over the years, he has led wilderness trips that have put his hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and scuba diving skills to use. He has a B.S. in Environmental Science and is an avid nature photographer. He spends his off-time paddling Florida’s backwaters and exploring for fossilized shark’s teeth and Wooly Mammoth remnants. With his genuine love for the outdoors, Cary paddles with head and heart, and will have you doing the same. @carycattsphotography