It's a bird, it's a plane, it's...a banana.
No, you're eyes are not deceiving you. Circling the waters around the Destin harbor is none other than a six-passenger inflatable banana.
After 17 years in the hotel business, Chris Langen, and his wife Misty, started Mobile Sports Banana Boat Rides in 2010 with the hopes of providing families with a new and memorable experience. Instead of Jet Skis and other activities that can only accommodate two people at a time, the banana rides can take the whole family.
"Banana rides aren't something new," Langen said. "But the way we do it is different."
Families looking to hitch a ride on the bananas can make reservations through the company's website or over the phone. From there, the trip is pretty much up to you. Tours begin on the boat where Langen, or Captain Chris, engages with passengers to find out what kind of trip they want.
"Some want to go crazy and fall off and some just want a nice tour in the water," he said.
Langen advises individuals that passengers should be 5 years or older. There are no height or weight restrictions. The only limitation is a person's physical ability to pull themselves back on the boat should they fall off.
There may be a child, or even adult who's apprehensive. Langen plays music, dances, sits down and talks with them — whatever it takes to ensure that each individual is having fun and feels comfortable.
"I try to encourage them to conquer their fears," he said. "I'm not motivated by the money. I'm motivated by the experience they have and the memory they have."
Reputation is also something that drives Langen and his employees. Mobile Sports is ranked No. 1 of 83 activities to do in Destin on TripAdvisor.com.
"I feel a lot of pressure to give families a good value," he said. "I want to get people together and create the kind of experience where they want to come back and visit."
What sets Mobile Sports apart from other aquatic attractions in Destin, is the preservation of the memories created. A photographer goes on every ride, taking pictures from the boat and capturing every second of the hour-long adventure. Guests can purchase the pictures through various photo packages.
"We take hundreds of pictures," Langen said. "At the end of the day I pull out the great ones and make them available online, which is typically 50-100 high quality photos. Families have used them for Christmas cards and mailed them to us."
When Langen first started the business, he was the photographer and hired boat captains to pull the banana. However, he eventually earned his own captain's license.
"I know now where to go at what times to create the best possible photos," he said. "If we don't get the picture, it didn't happen."
Where the banana rides go is up to the weather, Langen said. While the Gulf is the best option in Langen's opinion, he'll also take groups to calmer waters depending on their preferences.
Even with the summer's numerous downpours, Mobile Sports had a good year, Langen said. With three years in business, the banana captain is looking at expanding — whether it be more bananas or other vessels. During this year's Fishing Rodeo in October, he'd like to add dolphin tours to the business to prolong the season.
To make your banana boat reservation, call 687-1626 or visit www.mobilesportsllc.com.