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The Surfing Realtor

Amanda Abbott shares the wonders of Gulf Therapy 

Article by Savannah Vasquez

Photography by Robert Young, Forever Young Images

Originally published in Destin City Lifestyle

It’s dawn on Western Lake of Grayton Beach and Amanda Abbott has one thing in mind, paddling out into nature to find some peace. As the sun gently paints the water with pinks, oranges and yellows, a blue heron stands at the top of the sand dune. Sea oats wave and rustle in the salty breeze and blue crabs scuttle along the shallow banks of the winding watery path that leads from the dune lake to the Gulf of Mexico.

This has been Amanda's solace for quite some time – a place where she comes to clear her mind and now, she shares the space with others who wish to find the same peace through her non-profit, Gulf Therapy.

“I was born and raised here, I’ve always been drawn to the water,” Amanda said. “In 2011, I had a personal traumatic event and when I was healing from that, I would go out on my paddleboard and just hear the waves, lay out on the board and pray. I got a good, healthy release from that.”

In 2012, Amanda started an annual American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) event called Paddle for Prevention, but to have a more local impact she founded her own event Paddle for Peace. The event, held in April or early May, raises awareness for mental health and benefits those in need by funding therapy and other mental health services.

“There are not a lot of resources for mental health services, and they are expensive,” Amanda said. “This funding allows those who want help to find it without worrying about the cost. We work with many wellness specialists in the area, and we pay for up to five free therapy sessions for participants who need it.”

Gulf Therapy started in 2017 and became an official non-profit in 2019. With the help of fellow Grayton Beach paddleboarder Tyler (TK) King of Adventure 30A, the group started hosting meet-ups twice a month with the purpose of intentional paddling for peace of mind. Today, Amanda invites anyone dealing with stress or needing a mental health reset, to come out to Western Lake at 7 a.m. on the first and third Fridays of every month to experience the healing qualities of the Gulf and community with the free Gulf Therapy sessions or a small donation if you need to reserve a board.

“I wanted to turn my pain into a purpose. I wanted to be able to share the peace I found through paddling with the community on a different level,” Amanda said when asked why she started Gulf Therapy. “There are actual scientific studies about how the sounds of water can calm and heal your nerves. Then we also have quartz beaches, so I think that natural crystal make-up of the sand makes our beaches more healing than most.”

Along 30A, Amanda has been dubbed the Surfing Realtor. She not only runs her non-profit in her spare time but has been known to take her clients with the Abbott Martin Group paddling or e-biking to give a different perspective of our beautiful coastal neighborhoods.

“Whether it’s sharing the paddling lifestyle with a real estate customer or bringing people on the water for healing with Gulf Therapy, it’s bringing people to those experiences that I love,” Amanda said. "I like to highlight the lifestyle and the opportunity you can have here. I enjoy the aspect of bringing people to the water to have a better quality of life.”

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