Two years ago Shellback Paddle Experience launched the traveling SUP road show. Our mission is paddlesports education via dealer clinics, consumer classes, demo events, and American Canoe Association training & instructor certification courses. Thirty plus years in the paddlesports industry has given us lifelong friends that have extended their support and provided opportunity for our new adventure. We’ve driven 35,000 miles through 40 states towing a 20’ travel trailer with a Ford E250 van. We wondered if at some point we’d miss being at home rather than living life on the road.
The beginning was all about adventures to come while getting used to the rhythm of the road and being self sufficient. How many tools does it take to navigate successfully? Try two GPS, a phone and lots of maps. How anybody got anywhere in the old days is remarkable. There were schedules to follow but we seemed to be able to strike a balance between work, exploration and spending time with friends and family.
This year we added Piper, a Cairn terrier puppy to the traveling road show. She was 14 weeks old when we left and has grown up experiencing something new every day.
We focus on SUP instruction so it’s easy to take her on the board. Fortunately she is under 20 lbs and there is lots of room, but when she bolts from one end to the other you’d better be ready!
En route we knew parking for the night would be an unknown. At times it was literally the side of the road or an obscure parking lot. We were fortunate that we weren’t bothered by anyone, but for some strange reason there usually was a train nearby. It became a joke as in “have you heard the train yet?”
Life on the road has had great surprises. On one occasion friends of ours from the Midwest were at their summer cabin in Maine. They found out we were on the same island and invited us over for lobster dinner. A few days later we surprised them with an impromptu SUP outing. Another time we went SUPing with a couple on Buzzards Bay, MA resulting from a chance meeting on an airplane. Our trip was weaving a common thread between us and people who also loved being on the water.
Experiencing a place from the water is truly a gift. It’s calming as well as invigorating, familiar yet mysterious.
The Okefenokee Swamp’s beauty and uniqueness can only be explored from the water. Home to alligators, bald cypress and black waters, the swamp created feelings of wonder and curiosity.
People often ask us if we prefer paddling on salt water or fresh water. Fresh water is nice. Your gear doesn’t end up all crusty and stiff without a rinse. Our friends in the Great Lakes areas don’t have to pack extra water on an extended trip, just a filter - okay, pretty cool. Yet our recent return to the saline waters of the Pacific reminded us of why we love it so.
The trips seem to begin and end in Arcata, California, home of Kokatat. We usually paddle out of Trinidad Harbor. Sometimes there is light fog, other times glorious sun. The area is dotted with sea stacks and rocks, accessible beaches to the north and south all situated around glorious Trinidad Head. It is a treasure trove of choices for sea paddlers.
At the end of the trip have we missed being “at home”? I believe the answer is we were always there.