SUP Love – Stand Up Paddleboard Adventures in Latin America

Stand up paddling in the Galapagos

Spring is here in Montana, and as the weather has warmed up I’ve been stoked to get out and Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP)! Of course it’s warm somewhere all year long, so we at Detour are developing SUP trips in Latin America you can do any month of the year so you don’t have to wait for spring to get your paddle on. We have been spreading the SUP love with outfitter friends in South America for a few years, and now we are getting set up with some sweet new trips that include SUP in numerous destinations – especially near Cusco, Peru, and in the Galapagos Islands.  Check back with us for more details on these, and other, great new SUP adventures soon. The trips are perfect for beginners or experienced paddlers alike.

Stand Up Paddleboarding the Pacific, Nuqui, Colombia
Stand Up Paddleboarding the Pacific, Nuqui, Colombia

A few years ago I discovered the sport of SUP through a friend who works for Werner Paddles, and I immediately saw it would be a great addition to some of the trips we sell in Latin America, as SUP is easy to learn and a lot of fun. It is also a great way travel, as it involves moving slowly and silently across the water while offering a great vantage point for looking both into the water and out onto shore. Standing up to paddle is also a very appropriate way to travel in many destinations, as for many people in the world standing up to maneuver a water craft with poles or paddles is a traditional means of travel. Every time I SUP at home in Montana, or on a trip somewhere, bystanders ask me if they can give it a try; everyone I’ve seen try it has loved it.

Jascivan Carvalho SUPing the Pacific in Nuqui, Colombia, with a traditional water craft in the foreground Jascivan Carvalho SUPing the Pacific in Nuqui, Colombia, with a traditional water craft in the foreground
Jascivan Carvalho SUPing the Pacific in Nuqui, Colombia, with a traditional water craft in the foreground

I started talking to Jascivan Carvalho of Tropic, Journeys in Nature, about adding SUP to some trips in the Galapagos and before I knew it I was on my way to Ecuador for some exploratory paddling. Jasci is a surfer and sea kayaker, and he fell in love with SUP right away. We started by paddling with the Huaorani at the Huaorani Ecolodge deep in Ecuador’s Amazon Basin, where Moi Enomenga and friends showed us how natural it can be to paddle standing up (the Huaorani made SUPing look even easier than it is- not surprising since they used to standing up and poling in round bottomed, tippy dugout canoes). Paddling the Shiripuno River was a fantastic experience, and standing up on a paddleboard allows the paddler to look out over the banks to take in jungle sights in a way a kayaker can’t even imaging. Paddling standing up on a nice stable paddleboard is as close as most of us will come to traveling in the Huaorani way – standing up in narrow dugout canoes.  SUPing just feels right when paddlng in the Amazon, as it is a nice mix of modern sport and ancient transportation method. We don’t currently have any SUPs at the Huaorani Ecolodge, but hopefully we will add some soon.

 

After paddling in the Amazon, Jasci and I then took the SUPs to San Cristobal Island in the Galapagos, where we paddled with sea lions, pelicans, and boobies. From there we went over to Isabela Island to paddle the beautiful bay in front of town, passing over sea turtles swimming a few feet below us, and where we tried to catch some small waves.  Since that trip we’ve been offering SUP as an additional activity on many of our Galapagos Multisport Adventures offered by Tropic. Jascivan has become a big SUP fan and he wants to add SUP to many inland itineraries in Ecuador as well. Keep your eyes out for those new itineraries.

Stand up Paddleboarding near Frigate Hill, San Cristobal Island, Galapagos Islands
Stand up Paddleboarding near Frigate Hill, San Cristobal Island, Galapagos Islands

We have 6 NRS Big Earl and Big Baron inflatable SUPs and Werner Carve paddles in the Galapagos Islands (the only boards available in the Galapagos), where we have used them on trips around San Cristobal Island for a few years (the SUPs are now on Floreana Island). The NRS boards are pretty stable but also pretty fast for inflatables, making them good boards to cruise around the islands, and Werner paddles are just the best-made paddles we’ve ever seen.

Jascivan Carvalho Stand Up Paddleboarding San Cristobal Island, Galapagos Islands
Jascivan Carvalho Stand Up Paddleboarding San Cristobal Island, Galapagos Islands

Last summer, Paul Cripps of Amazonas Explorer in Peru came to Montana, and the Detour crew took him on Montana’s Blackfoot River for some fun low-water whitewater paddling. We had a blast, and Paul, an adventure junky and whitewater kayaker, was hooked. He now has a fleet of Badfish MCIT inflatable SUPs in Peru, and he is putting together itineraries to use them to offer commercial SUP trips on the rivers and lakes of Peru. The MCIT’s are some of the best inflatables made – super stable, yet nimble for running rapids and surfing river waves, but also relatively fast for paddling on lakes. A couple days ago Paul and his Amazonas Explorer team completed a new SUP run on the Upper Urubamba with easy to manage Class I and II water that they feel will be perfect for travelers. Details to come soon.

Exploratory SUP trip on the Apurimac River, Peru with Amazonas Explorer
Exploratory SUP trip on the Apurimac River, Peru with Amazonas Explorer
More Exploratory SUP trip on the Apurimac River, Peru with Amazonas Explorer
More Exploratory SUP trip on the Apurimac River, Peru with Amazonas Explorer

Last fall, I met up with Paul and Jascivan at a travel conference in Cartagena, Colombia, where Paul and I and some of our friends attempted a bit of SUP surfing at one of the beaches in town while the other conference attendees attended a cocktail party.  Then, after the conference, Jascivan and I headed to the Pacific Coast of Colombia where he has been working on a cool Community Based Tourism project, Mano Cambiada, aimed at providing jobs for local people while protecting the amazing environment and wildlife. There we got to SUP the mangrove forests around the lodge, again standing up like the locals paddle their canoes.  We also got a chance to try some surfing near a small fishing village after touring the village and meeting many of the local participants in the project. The Nuqui area is spectacular, with thick green forests blanketing steep mountains rising out of the dark Pacific Ocean, all dripping with moisture and mist.  The area offers fantastic whale watching, among other wildlife viewing, as well as amazing cultural experiences with the local villagers. I hope the project can grow and become profitable, as visiting is a great experience for travelers, and it provides badly needed income for locals.

    California surfer Sebastien Riedel SUPing through mangrove forests, Nuqui, Colombia
California surfer Sebastien Riedel SUPing through mangrove forests, Nuqui, Colombia
Playing in the waves, Nuqui, Colombia
Greg Findley playing in the waves, Nuqui, Colombia

Next month my mission of spreading SUP love continues as I will travel to Belize with an inflatable Badfish MCIT to SUP the Rio Grande River at the Lodge at Big Falls near Punta Gorda, and then I’ll head to the coast of Placencia for a stay at Laru Beya, with more SUPing along both sides of the Placencia Peninsula.  I’m also going to get to SUP at French Louie Caye, paddling over pristine coral reef and colorful fish. I have dreams of paddling over the reef, then tethering the SUP to my wrist while I hop off into the crystal clear water to snorkel and hunt for dinner.  Hopefully we can add SUP to some new Belize adventures we are looking to offer. Stay tuned for updates.

After Belize I’m home to do run some whitewater SUP on my Badfish MVP, and to hopefully learn to surf bigger river waves. Paul and Jascivan are both planning to visit Montana this summer, and I feel some great SUP adventures coming on, including paddling Yellowstone Lake and Leigh Lake in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.

Where have you SUPed? Tell us about your SUP adventures.

 

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