ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A couple who own a kiteboarding business in St. Petersburg estimate their sales are down about 50 percent due to customers' perceptions of red tide severity in the area, even though the toxic algae has not been found in the waters where they operate near the northeast side of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

  • October supposed to be businesses best month
  • Red tide has not been detected near Sunshine Skyway Bridge
  • Toxic algae bloom first hit Pinellas County beaches hard September 7

“We’re concerned. The reports out there right now is that red tide is affecting all of our waters in Tampa Bay,” said Elite Watersports co-owner Aaron McClearnon, 32. “We haven’t seen that at the Skyway. It’s clear water, you don’t smell anything out here.”

McClearnon said to make matters worse, October is supposed to be the best month of the year for their kiteboarding business. The water is still warm and there’s plenty of wind.

McClearnon said they’re going to struggle through the winter if things don’t get back to normal soon.

“I’m super worried. I mean October’s my make it or break it,” he said. “We should be cranking out about 7 to 8 lessons a day. We’re maybe at 1 or 2. Normally, we’re getting a ton of tourists from Europe, from all around the state, other states and we’re just not seeing that this year.”

Test results from Pinellas Environmental Management and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission show that red tide has not been detected at the Sunshine Skyway since the toxic algae first hit Pinellas County beaches hard on September 7.

That’s the message co-owner Vanessa McClearnon, 31, tries to get through to her potential customers.

“Trust us. We do this every day and we would never put any of our students in harm’s way,” she said. “If I’m out here right now, nine months pregnant, it’s definitely safe and we want you to have a good time.”

Elite Watersports charges $95 per hour for a kiteboarding lesson.