My First Expedition at Stand Up Paddle Surfing in the Waves of the Gulf of Mexico on South Padre Island
Two weeks ago I tried stand up paddle boarding on South Padre Island. It was late afternoon on a windy, sunny day. My ancestors clearly did not evolve to live this far south and I was sun/wind burnt before I started (from the preceding week in I spent on the beaches of South Padre). Ordinarily I love to try new things but I wasn’t feeling up to snuff. I didn’t even check my paddleboarding equipment before I got underway, so by the time I realized that the paddle I was using was shorter than it should have been, I was already standing in the middle of the Laguna Madre bay, exhausted and facing an upwind trip back to the Air Padre dock.
Never one to give up easily, I decided to try it again later in the week but in the mean time I did a little reading. I started with a query of Wikipedia. Unfortunately, there is no Wikipedia article on stand up paddle boarding…there is however, an article on stand up paddle surfing. While reading the article, a light bulb flickered to life in my brain. I was doing it all wrong, while the paddle board immediately reminded me of an over-sized surfboard (Air Padre’s SUP rental boards are nearly three feet wide, a dozen feet long and 4 to 6 inches thick), it hadn’t occurred to me that I could take it into the Gulf of Mexico.
This time, I used a SurfTech SUP board and ventured into the sea and the surf. Standing on the board gave me a better vantage point to watch incoming waves. A paddle board is large enough—and even slightly cushioned—that I could rest comfortably if needed, and I could sit on it and operate it like a kayak when fighting the waves on my way out, then stand up and pick the perfect wave to ride in. I even had a paddle that provided greater power and maneuverability.
Being new to the sport I made sure to give other beach goers a safe amount of distance, or maybe I just didn’t want to be within earshot of anticipated laughter. I fell over unexpectedly a few times and ended up with salt water shooting up my nose more times than I can count on one hand, but if it hadn’t been fun I wouldn’t have continued. It was new, it was challenging and it was simultaneously relaxing. The surfing aspect of it made all the difference for me; instead of focusing on the expanse of open water and wind (as happens when one is exhausted in the middle of Laguna Madre), I was focusing on waves.
Apparently, stand up paddle boarding is quite popular in Austin, where it’s done on the river. Maybe because my introduction to paddle boarding was in Texas, it didn’t initially occurred to me that it could be done in the surf (and there’s a shortage of rivers on SPI) but I’m sure riding the current of a river would be fantastic also. As for me, I prefer to think of it as stand up paddle surfing.