Paddling Fanatics: An Interview with Dr. Bruce Neill

Dr. Bruce Neill supervises snorkelers via stand up paddleboard in San Carlos Bay. 

Dr. Bruce Neill supervises snorkelers via stand up paddleboard in San Carlos Bay. 

Our first-ever “Paddling Fanatics” interview is with Dr. Bruce Neill, who is affectionately known by friends as Doc Bruce. He is the executive director of Sanibel Sea School, a non-profit marine conservation organization he founded with his wife, Evelyn, and he is passionate about sharing the wonders of the ocean with his students. When he’s not teaching, you can usually find him paddling the waters around Sanibel. 

How many years have you been paddling?
I guess about 45 or so. I am an old guy - I first started to paddle seriously when I was around 13.

Who taught you to paddle?
Probably my dad.

What type of paddle craft do you currently paddle?
I almost exclusively paddle a stand up paddleboard, but I am preparing to start a new chapter of my paddling life on a single outrigger canoe, also known as an OC1. 

Why are you making the change?
I will always love stand up paddleboards. The line of sight is great, and I feel that I am a part of thousands of years of paddling history. I am proud to carry on that tradition, and I am excited to paddle an OC1 for many of the same reasons. People have been making and paddling outrigger canoes for centuries, and I would like to take my place in the lineage of paddlers traveling by such a well-designed craft.

What gear do you always take paddling?
A GPS watch, sunglasses, and a hat.

Why do you love to paddle?
It is elegant, and the water is always changing, day-to-day, minute-to-minute. No real technology is needed, just a couple of pieces of wood (or carbon) and your own strength and endurance.

Thanks, Doc Bruce!


Walter Cheatham is an experienced paddler and ACA-Certified Paddling Instructor. Ocean Tribe Paddlers is a club founded by Sanibel Sea School to help the SWFL paddling community better explore, enjoy, and understand the ocean. Visit or follow us on Facebook to learn more.