When I was introduced to paddle boarding I was instantly drawn to the idea of doing multi-day trips with gear lashed to the deck. Was that possible? Was anybody doing it? Where could you go?I had been a sea kayak guide, mountaineer, and thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. Living simply with a backpack's amount of gear and moving at a pedestrian pace through the backcountry is what I loved. A paddleboard appeared to be a perfect fit.
That was six years ago. Since then I have done SUP-support solo coastal trips in Alaska, Baja, and Panama. One hundred miles heading north from Juneau to Haines with a single drybag. Over 300 miles paddling south along the Sea of Cortez from Santa Rosalia to La Paz. And two weeks touring estuaries and bays of Bocas del Toro. Early on in my SUP career I got the reputation as the “duffle bag paddle boarder.”
But living in Central Oregon, if you are going to do a multi-day SUP-support trip it's going to be on rivers.
I wasn't a river person until I discovered paddle boarding. Whitewater kayaking looked crazy to me. And rafting just seemed too slow and gear-intensive. But SUP looked like the perfect combination of fast and light and leaving the smallest footprint in wilderness environments. Once I discovered the river, I was hooked.
I did my first few river trips solo with no river experience. My first trip was four days and 150 miles on the John Day River. I swam through every rapid and went home humbled each time intent on learning how to navigate on a board.
With body armor on and a full-face helmet, I hit the rapids near Bend before there was a whitewater park. With growing confidence, I set out to paddle the 100 miles of the Lower Deschutes from Warm Springs to the Columbia Gorge in a single day. On my first attempt, I made it in a 16 hour trip. After that, no one was holding me back and river paddleboarding became my singular focus.
That's when I met Peter Hall and aligned with Hala Gear SUP. At the time he was the only one making river specific inflatable paddle boards intended for touring and running rapids. Since then I have run over 100 rivers throughout North America, New Zealand, Chile, and Japan. I have hosted river SUP clinics and have introduced a new generation to the sport.
River touring with a dry bag attached to the board is my happy place. This summer I had the great joy of meeting up with Hala ambassador Jimmy Reed to do an 8-day SUP-support trip in Montana on the South Fork Flathead River. With a couple of his close friends, we rolled up boards and headed into the Bob Marshall Wilderness on horseback to the headwaters. Here is the Vlog:
Paul Clark is a tech rep for Hala Gear.