South Padre Island: A SUPing Paradise

One of my favorite things about full-time RVing is all the opportunities my husband and I spent have had to explore the country on our stand-up paddle boards. 

Most recently, we visited South Padre Island off the southern coast of Texas. There are many places on and near the island for paddle boarding, including in the ocean near the jetty at Isla Blanca Park. 

SUPing Isla Blanca Park

Isla Blanca Park is a large park on the Southern tip of the Island.  It has pavilions along the water's edge and access to the Gulf of Mexico. The whole park is filled with beautiful sandy beaches and waves of various sizes depending on the day’s conditions. 

The Laguna Madre is also accessible, a protected area of smooth flat water (unless it is windy.) We parked in the large RV park in Isla Blanca Park. There are over 600 sites and tent sites available.  

We met a lot of interesting people at the campground. Some folks live in the Rio Grande Valley and come to the park for weekends to get away from hot Valley summers. We also met a group of people who refer to themselves as  “Winter Texans.” Winter Texans spend several months out of the year living at the park.

Then there are the outdoor recreationists that come for the ideal wind conditions. We met wind and kite surfers and sailors who came to enjoy the flat water of Laguna Madre and the exciting swells of the Gulf of Mexico. The campground had a fantastic atmosphere and a great sense of community among the fun-loving mix of people. 

Starship Launch

And this year, a different crowd of interesting folks was at the campground. This year, in mid-April, the campground was also home to many people who came in anticipation of Space-ex’s inaugural rocket launch, the Starship.  

The Space folks were a fantastically quirky group, and it was impossible not to get caught up in the excitement and discussions of the forthcoming launch. The launch occurred on April 20, 2023, and we were perfectly positioned to view the event from the park. The Space-ex facility and rocket launch pad are in Boca Chica, Texas, directly across the channel from the Southern end of South Padre Island.  The sound, sight, and vibrations of the rocket taking flight were absolutely captivating.

Past the Break

We got several days of good SUP surfing while on the island. On my favorite day, the waves were quite large, and I wasn’t sure if I could paddle out through the breakers.  

There are several sand bars where the waves break, and on the bigger days, the waves break even on the farthest sand bars. I decided that if I didn’t make it out, I would climb down the rocks on the jetty and put my board into the channel where the water was calmer. Then I’d paddle all the way around the jetty into the breakers.  

On my first attempt to paddle out, I got washed back in. I focused on breathing, patience, and timing and succeeded on my second attempt!  Once I made it out there, there were non-stop, quality waves. 

I shared the waves with quite a few others enjoying the water.  Everyone was friendly and encouraging, and there were plenty of waves for all.

The Wind

The wind is always a factor at Isla Blanca Park. Sometimes it helps you. Sometimes it doesn’t. We paddled our boards across the channel from Isla Blanca Park to Boca Chica, depending on the wind direction. There is another long jetty on that side of the channel.  It feels quite remote over there, and the waves can be excellent.  

After the rocket launch, we heard that the beach on that side was covered in rocket debris from the launch pad. We wanted to check it out. However, crossing the channel requires knowledge of the wind direction and speed. The wind can change at any time, making the paddle back difficult to nearly impossible. 

Likewise, know what the tide is doing before you head out. I once got caught in the wind fighting for every inch I gained. Unfortunately, I had to forego all the ground I had gained to avoid getting caught up in the large nets of a shrimp boat.  Since that incident, I will study wind and tide forecasts before heading out.


My husband and I also enjoy using our Stand Up Paddle Boards as platforms for spearfishing around the jetty.  We use our boards as a Bouey.  I snorkel and dive to spot the fish, and my husband operates his pole spear. We speared mostly Sheepshead Fish, which are good eating. You can also catch Red Fish, Spotted Sea Trout, Snook, and several other fish in the calmer waters of the Laguna Madre. 

South Padre Island and the 2024 Eclipse

We plan on going back to South Padre Island. We will definitely bring our SUP boards, and we look forward to using them in the ocean and practicing our wing-foiling skills. 

On April 8th, 2024, the path of totality of a total solar eclipse goes right through Texas. This will be the perfect time to once again head down to SPI and enjoy the relaxed island atmosphere and exciting activities.


Emily Barnes discovered SUP 12 years ago as a way to cope with drug and alcohol addiction. She has since tried whitewater SUP, ocean surfing, and has even explored bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico.

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