When we say “R&R,” you may assume we’re talking rest and relaxation. There’s plenty of both to be found on Pensacola Beach, but you’ll also discover a double “R” that’s less about lazing around and more about letting loose.
Radical Rides has been a Santa Rosa Island staple for nearly 25 years. Bankers by trade, Cindy and Roger Bevan were newly engaged when the young husband-to-be came home to announce he’d sold his car and quit his job.
It turned out all those meetings and suits didn’t suit the Bevans, who moved from Alabama to Pensacola Beach, trading careers to bank on a water sports business.
“Lots of people think about doing something like that, but most of them never actually do it,” Cindy says. Roger adds, “All our friends said we were the only people they knew who would do something so crazy.”
At the time, even his fiancée thought he was nuts. But he took her to the property, just over the Toll Bridge on Quietwater Beach, and said, “Just imagine … ”
They founded their business on pontoon rentals, followed by sailboats, changing and expanding their inventory with the times and trends. When wave runners became the wave of the future, they bought twenty.
Later, as parasailing gained popularity, the Bevans invested in new vessels to cater to their adventure-seeking clientele. Today, they have two shiny red parasailing boats with American flag chutes.
Customers can choose to “fly” over the sound or the Gulf – each with breathtaking views of our beautiful beach.
Radical Rides is the only local business to offer the Gulfside “Parasail Adventure Tour,” featuring a dolphin tour and a scenic view of Pensacola Beach from the beautiful Gulf of Mexico.
They also have kayaks for rent, including a brand new fleet purchased for the summer of 2014.
Along the way, they’ve never lost sight of what sets them apart – a home-like, family atmosphere. As soon as you walk into the bright green shelter (rebuilt four times due to hurricanes), they’ll tell you to kick off your shoes and put your toes in the sand.
They want their place of business to feel like home, because they spend more time there than they do at their own house. From March to November, Cindy and Roger are on site seven days a week, with a crew they consider family. Many of their employees come back summer after summer, and so do their customers.
“We only hire kids we feel like we could take home to Christmas dinner,” Cindy says. “And I tell every new hire it is their responsibility to make sure our guests remember their vacation with fondness.”
Her edict must be working, because the owners and staff of Radical Rides have watched the same families come back year after year, and the children grow up before their eyes.
“It’s fun to see the little ones return every season until finally they can drive,” Roger says. “They’ve waited a long time for this moment.”
Teens can operate the jet skis at age 14 with a legal form of identification (driving permits, school IDs or birth certificates suffice). And though it may be hard to believe, children as young as three can legally parasail with a parent.
Roger says one thing that makes Radical Rides stand out from other area attractions is that memories are more important than money. The Bevans, whose son Patrick captains the parasail boat, have always kept their prices reasonable by keeping overhead low. That way, families can afford to have more fun.
Cindy believes her business has an edge – not because of the rad name and funky troll mascot hand-drawn by Roger – but because of the way they treat people. She says customers come back because they remember being appreciated and feeling safe.
“We have always prided ourselves on being a family business because this is a family beach,” Cindy says. “When you come to Radical Rides, it’s like coming into our home.”
Just leave your shoes – and your cares – in the sand.
Radical Rides is located at 444 Pensacola Beach Boulevard on Pensacola Beach FL. For more information, visit the Radical Rides website or call (850) 934-9743.
– Ashley Kahn Salley
Lead Storyteller, Innisfree Hotels