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Family-owned Captiva business offers plethora of beach activities

By Staff | Jan 3, 2018

Betsy Ventura, Nikolas Ventura, Jennings Ventura, Sims Ventura and Marcel Ventura. MEGHAN MCCOY

A few couples waded through the water towards the Yolo Watersports parasailing boat last Wednesday with a little hesitation mixed in with excitement as they embarked on a new adventure.

Once safety measures were discussed by Captain Tony Tromba, Jimmy McPherson began fitting two people at a time with a harness and lifejacket, getting them ready for their parasailing adventure. Two passengers were hooked to a bar, which was attached to a huge yellow smiley face parachute, before they sat down on the platform at the back of the boat.

With both worry of the unknown mixed with smiles spreading across their face, they slowly lifted off the boat until they reached the maximum distance into the air as they experienced Captiva from the sky for 12 to 14 minutes.

McPherson said it’s within that timeframe because your legs begin to fall asleep if you’re up in the air any longer.

In 1987 the popular Captiva business was opened by Jim Floyd. Marcel Ventura, now the owner, began working for his best friend’s father a year later.

Jimmy McPherson takes a picture of the couple as they finish their parasailing adventure. MEGHAN MCCOY

“It was Jim’s Rentals. He had six scooters, a dozen bikes and four Waverunners. We purchased the property from him in 1992 and that is when Yolo started its separate entity as parasailing,” Marcel said. “Then Yolo acquired Jim’s Rentals and everything that went along with it. We have just grown the business since then.”

Once the Ventura’s took over, they kept it a family-owned business with their daughter Sims, and son Jennings working there from a young age. In addition, Marcel’s brother, Nikolas, has worked for the business for 15 years.

“They worked from the ground up,” Betsy said of their children. “They have learned the business from the ground up.”

In addition to their immediate family working there, she said they have some amazing employees . Tromba began working for Yolo when he was 15, 16 years ago.

“He started as a beach guy and is now a boat captain,” Betsy said. “He is the longest employee that we have had.”

Yolo Watersports, at 11534 Ande Rosse Lane in Captiva offers a plethora of activities one can partake in such as riding the banana boat, going parasailing, waverunner excursions and flyboarding.

The early years of the business, the local municipalities wanted to ban personal watercraft from the island.

“It was a shock to the residents because they had never seen anything like that before,” Marcel said. “There was less tourist at that time. So we prevailed and we were very fortunate.”

In addition people can rent beach chairs and umbrellas, bikes, golf carts, GoPro Hero, sailboats, scooters, Scoot Coupe, standup paddleboards, surfboards, wagons and Yeti coolers.

The golf carts were added to the list in 2005 and has increased in popularity over the years.

Betsy Ventura, Marcel’s wife, said the Scoot Coupe is sort of like a scooter but it has three wheels and people can sit side by side.

“Anything that you need on vacation we rent,” she said. “It’s the fun stuff to rent to be entertained.”

Over the years, the Venturas said the island has changed. What used to be year round residents, has changed more to a rental community.

“It’s weekly rentals, or monthly rentals, so there is more of a tourist destination,” Betsy said.

Marcel said many of the homes owned privately are in a rental program.

In addition to the rentals, Yolo also offers a beach store that sells shelling nets, a line of sunglasses from Mahi Jim’s to Ray-Bans and Costa Del Mar, as well as lower end sunglasses that are under $10. Other items include beach sandals – Rainbows, and beach towels and buckets.

“We are three doors down from the beach, so it’s great,” she said.

For more information, visit www.yolowatersports.com, or call (239) 472-9656.