May 1, 2024
Cover Stories


It may appear Margeaux Donovan Gibson, Abigail Remke and Amy Minchin thrive in disparate professional worlds, but they share common ground in their respective fields. All incorporate a coastal posture.


Standing on a second-floor porch overlooking the boundless Bayou Texar backdrop of her home and office, Margeaux Donovan Gibson explains how coastal life suits her holistic approach to her practice as a licensed mental health counselor.

“With the holistic approach, you take into account mind, body and spirit,” Gibson said. “Research repeatedly shows that time in nature, especially on the coast, even for two hours per week, is associated with a greater sense of well-being.

“Struggles surrounding self-esteem, anxiety, depression and issues related to chronic disease have all been shown to improve with just a little dose of nature,” she said. “Some studies even suggest ‘the nature pill’ can be as effective as Zoloft for anxiety.”

Living on the coast also promotes stamina via an active lifestyle, whether it’s walking, jogging or participating in water sports and swimming — all activities that open the door to vitamin D, Gibson said.

“The Gulf Coast is a geographical area that offers bio-available vitamin D 365 days of the year, and it only takes about 10-15 minutes outside without sun protection to get your daily dose,” Gibson said. “It’s important to gradually begin exposing our skin to the sunlight in the spring so that we can withstand more time outside in the summer, and to aim for mid-day sun exposure in the winter months.”

Think of summertime as a time “to recharge our mental health batteries” so that we can survive the colder months without seasonal depression, she said.

“Vitamin D, specifically from natural sunlight, is well-known to be associated with better sleep, a reduction in oxidative stress and inflammation,” Gibson continued. “It also decreases symptoms and severity of anxiety and depression. A healthy body typically equals a healthy mind, but sunlight plays a huge part in this equation.” 

And consider the power of the coast’s negative ions.

“The crashing waves of the Gulf Coast create a release of negative ions into the air,” Gibson said. “Negative ions are molecules in the air with an extra electron, which gives them a negative charge, and are created by moving water or colliding water molecules. These negative ions purify the air and increase the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain, relieve stress, anxiety and depression and also improve sleep and cognitive function.”

Gibson thinks this is a great reason to sit on the shore of the Gulf when the surf is especially rough.

“Perhaps this is why surfers are so calm. And, why it is believed that people naturally have a more stress-free, lower pace of living in a beach setting.”

Let’s face it, Gibson said, healthy coastal life offerings abound.

“While I was living on Pensacola Beach in an early marriage in 2012 as a brand-new psychotherapist and yoga teacher, my husband and I often joked together that the island healed us from all of our ails,” Gibson said.

“It was indeed one of the happiest times of our lives, despite ample stress and transition.” 


It’s tough not to use every cheerful synonym that comes to mind when trying to introduce the bubbly Abigail Remke. Bubbly even seems a tad cliché.

But, hey, we are talking about a fabulously sunny University of North Florida/Hicks Honors College student majoring in civil engineering with an emphasis on port and coastal engineering.

Through the Hicks Honors College, Remke was a part of the 2023 Honoring the Ocean program sponsored by Florida Institute of Oceanography with

five state university honors colleges, exploring interdisciplinary approaches to addressing critical issues facing Florida’s coastlines and oceans. Whew! Did you get all that?

Oh, one more happy point. This exceptional academic is a phenomenon in the surf world, a distinction that surfaced at an early age.

“I was a very typical young girl who loved the water until I was about 9 years old,” Remke chimed in. “That’s when everything changed, and I truly found what I loved. My parents got me a surfboard for my 9th birthday, and I instantly fell in love. That summer, I went to Innerlight’s Surf Camp multiple times and knew that this would be the sport and hobby I did forever. I even ended up working for Innerlight Surf Camp and doing private lessons for them for many summers.”

She said she picked up surfing extremely fast and started competing with the National Scholastic Surfing Association and Eastern Surfing Association in the fall of 2011.

The following spring of 2012, Remke competed in her first major contest, the NSSA East Coast Championships, and continued to compete at a high level throughout high school at Pensacola Catholic.

Her “biggest wins” — the NSSA Nationals in Explorer Longboard in 2018 in Huntington Beach, California, and the ESA Southeast Regionals Women’s Longboard Division in 2021 and Women’s Shortboard Division in 2022, both in Melbourne Beach, Florida.

“I was on the Eastern Surfing Association All-Star team all throughout high school and a team mentor my freshman year of college,” Remke said. “I was able to travel to Hawaii for training all five years.”

Competing from a young age meant traveling “to cool places,” spurring her love of surfing and making friends from across the country. Along with her surfing compadres, Remke travels around the world for contests and surf trips — including forays to Mexico, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and all over the East and West Coasts.

“When choosing colleges, I knew I wanted to stay on the coast, and I especially knew I wanted to go to a school with a surf team,” Remke explained. “I competed at many contests in Jacksonville throughout high school, so when looking at colleges, University of North Florida already felt like a home away from home.

“Once I joined UNF’s surf team, I met some of my closest friends and fell in love with spending time at the beach all over again, only this time on the Atlantic instead of the beautiful Gulf,” Remke said. “I still continue to compete with NSSA through college now and ESA individually, but college has created a whole new love of the coast.” 

Remke said she married her love for surfing and the coast to her academic life, as she studies civil engineering with an emphasis on port and coastal engineering.

“I have been able to take many classes to learn more about the dynamics of water in general, but specifically why and how waves break,” Remke said. “I have been able to learn about the different types of sand and how they benefit different beaches or surf breaks. Another very interesting thing I have learned is how piers, jetties and coastal structures can hurt or help beaches and sandbars.”

All of this has allowed her to add to the information of the coast she already has and really learn how she can help the environment through coastal engineering.

“This summer I am interning at Taylor Engineering in Jacksonville on their Waterfront Engineering team,” Remke said. “I am very excited to continue working toward my career goals of helping the environment through bettering the structures on our coastlines.”

The crux of it all for Remke is clear.

“The coast will always be a special place to me. No matter where I am in the world, I know if there is a coast nearby, I will always be able to find a home away from home, a place where I can de-stress, and truly enjoy all of my surroundings.”

The coast has led her to best friends, a career passion and has also helped her create some of her favorite memories.


Writer Amy Minchin grew up in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and lived and worked in Birmingham and Mobile before calling Gulf Breeze home in 2009.

The wife and mother of three teen daughters worked in corporate communications in the financial industry for 13 years before becoming a full-time freelance writer and communications contractor in 2012. She currently works with ABC Group, a public relations firm serving the transportation industry, while growing her freelance writing opportunities.

“Writing about the coast sort of evolved organically,” Minchin explained. “I started writing about life on the coast back in 2014 when I started a WordPress blog called ‘Sand in My Minivan’ about my family’s vacation adventures and activities around the Pensacola area.”

The feedback she got spurred her to grow her reach.

“Friends who read my blog would ask me if I’d ever written about places they wanted to visit, to help them plan their vacations. People I didn’t know would contact me on Instagram to ask my opinion about local tourist attractions and restaurants,” she said.

“I didn’t set out to be an influencer like many of today’s bloggers and social media personalities do, which is probably a good thing since my kids would cringe to see their mom on TikTok,” Minchin said. “But, in a sense, I guess my hobby blog and the other writing assignments have made me an influencer to a degree.”

As waves rolled in on the Gulf Coast’s white sands, Minchin picked up more freelance writing jobs, covering the area for Visit Florida, working with the University of West Florida on various publications and contributing to Visit Pensacola’s blog.

Now finding herself immersed in the coastal way of life, Minchin professionally and personally embraces her popular longitude and latitude.

And she generously shares it.

“A few years ago, I started taking an annual girls’ trip with two of my college friends, Bess and Sherry,” Minchin said. “They live in Memphis and Birmingham, and every year we talk about where we should go, maybe visiting different cities, but so far, we’ve always chosen to spend our girls’ weekend on the Gulf Coast.

“All three of us are busy moms, and even though we like to explore new places, nothing has won out over relaxing at the beach,” she said. “We put our beach chairs in the sand or head out to float in the waves, and we talk for hours catching up on our marriages, our kids, our jobs, everything really until the sun sets. I look forward to this so much, and it keeps our friendships close.”

She said it all goes back to enjoying that slower pace at the beach and being with the people you care about.

As easy as leaning back in a beach chair, Minchin openly shares her sentimental position.

“I like writing about the Gulf Coast because it is where I spent time with my favorite people,” she said. “I grew up as the daughter of small business owners who worked long hours, but they made time to visit the beach a few times a year. I have great memories here with my parents and sister, and much of our extended family.”

That lifelong connection buoys her spirit.

“To be able to walk the same beaches, play in the Gulf, enjoy delicious seafood and be together in this beautiful environment with my own family has just felt natural to me. It’s a tradition I’m carrying on, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

Living on the coast reinforces a strong sense of community, too, Minchin said.

“Pensacola is truly a melting pot of people from all over, especially with the military bases nearby, and we’ve found that most people are genuinely welcoming when new people move into the area.”

Her family did not live here in 2004 when Ivan hit, but they were here through Hurricane Sally, the Pensacola Bay Bridge being out and the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is comforting to know that neighbors are looking out for one another through tough times,” Minchin said. “That is part of what defines community on the coast.”

Award-winning writer Alice Crann Good spent about 20 years as a journalist for Gannett’s USA Today and Pensacola News Journal; accolades include the Scripps Howard Foundation| National Journalism Award. Alice spent seven years as a communications specialist for Pensacola State College and is author of Betsy the Bookworm children’s book series, available worldwide.