Island Lessons: SUP on SPI
Have you ever seen people standing on what sort of resembles a surf board, trying to maneuver the water with what looks like a stick from a distance? I never knew what that water sport was until I moved to South Padre Island — all I knew was it looked like a lot of work. For those that don’t know, the water sport is called standup paddleboarding, or SUPing for short, and it’s not as intimidating as it looks. Plus, the folks at Eh Brah SUP will even let you bring your pet along for the ride, so if you’re traveling to the Island with pets, this is a great activity for you! My little Pug (Mozzie), however, had no idea what I was volunteering him for until it was too late!
Eh Brah SUP
Eh Brah SUP is owned and operated by Mike and Madlen Sprowl, who met in Maui where Mike was working as a kiteboard instructor at the time. They eventually relocated to South Padre Island, which was a perfect blend of their love for water sports and Mike’s native Texan roots. Mike and Madlen welcome pets on all of their tours and are passionate about sharing their love of paddleboarding with whoever is willing to experience this activity. They even offered Mozzie a treat and his own water bowl while we were packing up for the tour!
After packing up the supplies (including a complimentary cooler of water) we were headed for the Laguna Madre Bay with our SUPs. Mike got me fitted to the right paddle height, gave me some initial instructions, and then it was time to hit the water. Trying to get Mozzie onto the SUP was a slight challenge at first — all four of his little legs went straight out and he didn’t seem thrilled about the prospect of touching the water — but once I was on the board with him, he settled down pretty quickly. Such is the life of a “velcro Pug!”
Island Insider Tip: Unless you have one of the tight fitting GoPro gloves or a head strap, I would not recommend taking the risk with expensive equipment. I had a mishap and had to go fishing for my gear, so I know from experience! Plus, your guide will take photos during your tour, so you’ll have an “Instaworthy” image to share!
More Than Just a SUP Lesson
We started out by just kneeling/sitting on the boards — getting used to the paddling motion and maneuvering around. As we coasted south on the waters of the Laguna Madre, Mike pointed out different species of fish and birds, explaining how the location of the Island is unique in that it is part of a migratory path. More than 300 species of migratory birds visit the Island during spring and fall migrations, making South Padre Island one of the best birding locations in the Western Hemisphere. Mike was a wealth of knowledge — discussing both the ecology and history of the Island while floating on the water with my dog (all while paddling) was an interesting “floating classroom” experience.
The Halfway Point
Halfway through the tour, we paused at a more shallow spot in the Bay to rest and cool off. Mike showed me how to ease myself off the board, which I very much appreciated since I didn’t want to scar Mozzie by accidentally (and suddenly) dumping him into the Bay. I slowly dipped Mozzie into the water so he could cool off as well, then we were back on the SUPs and headed north. Now it was time to actually try standing up on the board — “stand up” is in the name after all. I was a little nervous, but both Mozzie and I were already wet, so we didn’t have much to lose at that point.
Island Insider Tip: The Laguna Madre Bay averages 3.6 feet deep, so it’s a very safe environment to learn in. And, life jackets are included on the tour, regardless of whether you decide to wear them or not.
The Moment of Truth
After a few minutes of Mike walking me through the process of standing up slowly and gracefully (“gracefully” being the operative word), I was upright and feeling pretty good. The motion was described as going from “dog” (on all fours) to “frog” (up on your feet with bent knees and hands on the board), followed by using the paddle to push yourself up the rest of the way. It was the moment of truth, but Mike was so easy to follow as a teacher that I was able to stand up with no problem. And, I kid you not, Mozzie stood with me (well, between feet) the entire way back. I didn’t notice it for the first few minutes since I was focusing on not tipping us over, but that brave little Pug “SUPed” like a champ. We docked right back where we started as Madlen sent two other self-guided paddleboarders on their way. The whole experience was definitely a bit of a workout, but honestly, I was just “super stoked” to have not fallen off the board (and I’m sure Mozzie was relieved as well).
Island Insider Tip: If you’re a first timer you should definitely take advantage of the lesson/tour, but if you are more experienced Eh Brah SUP offers self-guided rentals as well.
In short, South Padre Island is the ideal location for a water sport like SUPing — the calm, flat waters of the Laguna Madre Bay are perfect for beginners, whereas the Gulf of Mexico offers waves for the more experienced rider. The folks at Eh Brah SUP will customize the tour to fit your needs, and they even offer discounts for larger groups, making it a perfect excursion for the whole family (including Fido!).
More info: (956) 433-9116 | www.ehbrahsup.com