Watersports owner buys marina for base of operations

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Summer might be winding to an end, but there's still plenty of fun left to be had in the sun - and on the water.

Neil Turner, founder and CEO of Sea Monkeys Watersports, recently acquired ownership of Hilton Head Harbor Marina, purchasing the property in December of last year. Combining the space and location of the marina with Sea Monkeys' ever-growing fleet of watercraft, Turner hopes to revitalize the harbor and bring something new and family-friendly to the area.

Having grown up in Bluffton, Turner holds a true appreciation for local waters, including working three years as the harbormaster of the very marina he now owns. In 2010, Turner saw the opportunity to found his own watersport company, establishing Sea Monkeys Watersports with his family at his side.

"When we started the company nearly ten years ago, we only had six [personal watercraft] and a whole lot of learning to do," said Turner. "The Lord was really just preparing us for when we bought the marina."

Now Sea Monkeys sports more than 25 personal watercraft, 33 seasonal employees, and a whole slew of activities, including boat rentals, boat tours, paddle boarding, parasailing and kayaking.

Acting as a hub, the marina is the next step in the company's evolution, and vice-versa.

"We're trying to reinvent the marina as a place to hang out," said Turner. "We want people to come down and have a great time."

The marina also supports an RV park and the Sunset Grille restaurant, two separately owned entities contributing to the location's appeal. Turner also hosts food trucks three days a week, which he hopes to expand.

"We spent the last nine months becoming self-sufficient. We're really hoping to balloon by next summer," said Turner.

In preparation, Turner has taken on a number of projects aimed to keep the marina growing and ensure its longevity as a Hilton Head Island mainstay. The first step is to the expand the fueling capabilities to allow for more boating, either personal or through rentals. Second is dredging, a form of underwater excavation that will help clear the harbor bed of trash, debris and excess mud.

With one summer fading, Turner is already hotly anticipating the next.

For more information about Sea Monkeys Watersports, visit seamonkeyshhi.com. For more information about the marina, visit hiltonheadharbor.com.

Sam Posthuma is a freelance writer living in Bluffton.

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