My name is Steve Hayes. I am a 35 year veteran of the Indian River County Fire District, recently retired. But the story started in the late 1950's when I was a young boy. My dad and a friend of his built a plywood airboat with a 65hp Franklin airplane motor that took us to the marsh where we fished, hunted, and just enjoyed the outdoors. Later, they built a cabin in the middle of a cypress head where we would spend weekends playing in the marsh. As I grew older and started driving, my two brothers, my friends, and I would wade out into the marsh to fish, hunt ducks and deer, and play tackle football. Oh what fun we had in those days. In the mid 80's, well into my fire department career, I bought my first airboat. This is when my true love of the marsh began. It gave me the freedom to explore the places that you can only imagine, see the sights that I wish you could see, and really experience the marsh.
A year, or two later, I built my second airboat which was bigger and much more powerful. This allowed me to run the marshes from Loxahatchee, northwest of Ft. Lauderdale, to SR 520, west of Cocoa and from Lake Okeechobee to Lake Toho in the Kissimmee River. Sometimes, especially in the summertime, I would go someplace that I had never been, fish till dark, and go froggin' until the sun came up. Miraculously, I never got lost, temporarily disoriented, but never lost.
By the late 80's, I started taking some of my friends that own groves and packing houses out to hunt ducks. Shortly after this, my friends asked me if I would take some of their European and Oriental fruit buyers for an airboat ride when they came to buy fruit. Of course I said yes, and this was the start of the airboat tour business in the area. Over the years past, the business has flourished and grown to the point that there are several other tour operators in the area. In 2008, I retired from the fire department which gave me the opportunity to do what I really enjoy doing, takin' people to the marsh, showin' them the sights, tellin' the stories, and watchin' them enjoy the experience.
WE START 'EM YOUNG!
By the end of 2010, my appetite for knowledge of the marsh had grown to the point that I had decided to enroll in the Florida MasterNaturalist Program sponsored by the University of Florida. This is a threemodule course in which I traveled over most of the lower half of Florida to complete and enjoyed every minute of. (Anyone interested in learning of the three main ecological systems in Florida should check into this program). There are still things that arise on a regular basis that I don’t have the answers to, but I do have the resources to find out.
At Stumpknocker Tours, we start them out young to ensure that all clients get the best ride in the marsh. Maybe this is why Stumpknocker Tours is the GRANDDADDY OF ‘EM ALL