JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- On your way to work in Jacksonville, what do you do?
Do you listen to a podcast, NPR, Metallica? Do you mumble under your breath at the driver who cut you off, or maybe, yell at them?
Chances are you don't paddle alongside dolphins in the St. Johns River — unless you're John Tully.
Tully, 57, has been surfing for half a century and so it's believable when he says, "Paddling across the river was never that daunting."
It only takes Tully about eight minutes to get to work at Safe Harbor Seafood, which is an enviable commute in and of itself here in Jacksonville. He gets to avoid the construction and low-key road rage by paddling about 100 meters a minute. But he doesn't use an oar, instead, he lies down on his specially made board and paddles like he is going out to catch a wave.
He started paddling to work about a year and a half ago when he moved to Fernandina Beach from elsewhere in Jacksonville and the ferry was down for repairs.
"I just couldn't stand standing across the river and seeing work on the other side," Tully says.
The commute for Tully in his car would be somewhere around 20 minutes; from getting into the car, getting over Dames Point Bridge, through Jax traffic, and safely to his destination. That estimation, of course, depends on if traffic is cooperating.
However, his unique commute comes with its own set of dangers.
"The biggest hazard is getting run over by a freighter," Tully says. "But the fix to that is to really look up and down the river before starting to paddle across; if Tully sees one while he is out he says he never takes a chance and always turns around. Tully also says, due to currents, there is the possibility of ending up slightly off the mark when he gets the other side of the river.
But, he much prefers that than distracted drivers on their cell phones.
Then there's the environmentally conscious aspect of paddling to work. Tully says the idea of getting to work without disrupting the environment is appealing.
He says there is something about getting to your job on nothing but your own steam that harkens back to days gone by — a simpler time.
As for Tully's mood when he paddles to work, it is as relaxing as expected. He says on the days he is able to paddle to work he is much happier than the days when the weather doesn't permit a leisurely river commute.
"It really gets my head right. It puts me in such a good mood," says Tully. "My blood pressure isn't up because someone cut me off or flipped me the bird."
So the next time you find yourself annoyed at Jacksonville traffic, remember to keep your hands at ten and two and try thinking about paddle boarding serenely on the St. Johns River, it works for John Tully.
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