Paddling Fanatics: An Interview with Johnny Rader

Johnny Rader teaches a stand up paddleboarding lesson on San Carlos Bay.

Johnny Rader teaches a stand up paddleboarding lesson on San Carlos Bay.

For my second interview with a paddling fanatic, I talked to Sanibel Sea School’s Lead Educator, Johnny Rader. When he is not teaching students about the ocean, Johnny is an avid scuba diver and paddler. Before working for the Sea School, he also taught marine science on Andros Island in the Bahamas. Needless to say, Johnny has a deep love for the ocean and has paddled in some amazing places.

How many years have you been paddling?
I’ve been paddling since I can remember. I grew up paddling kayaks and canoes on rivers, streams, and lakes in Ohio.

What type of paddle craft do you currently paddle? 
A stand up paddleboard. 

I like the elevated vantage point for birding and wildlife watching.

What was your first solo paddling experience? 
I was seven or eight when I went kayaking down the Mohican River by myself for the first time. 

What is your favorite place to paddle?
On Sanibel, I like the Finger Lakes. It’s a quiet area and there are always lots of creatures to look at. In the Bahamas, I loved kayaking to Blue Hole Key. We would jump out and spear invasive lionfish for dinner. 

What piece of gear do you always take paddling?
Lots of water to drink, in my reusable bottle. I have a Hydro Flask that keeps things cold all day. 

Who taught you to paddle?
I taught myself to kayak, which means I'm probably not doing it right - ha. I learned stand up paddleboarding from Bruce Neill and from my friend Spencer Richardson. 

What is your most memorable paddling experience?
Kayaking to snorkeling sites around the Bahamas and jumping in to take a look underwater. It’s amazing what you can see in the ocean if you slow down and observe. 

Why do you love to paddle?
It makes me feel connected to the ocean.

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.