SUP Women: Catching Up With The Atlantic SUPer Girls
By Rebecca Parsons
On October 12, 2015, friends and coworkers LouAnne Harris and Julieta "Jules" Gismondi—aka the Atlantic SUPer Girls—paddled out of New York City with their sights set on Miami, Florida. Over the next four months, the duo experienced strong winds, freezing temperatures, and aching muscles as well as beautiful beaches, personal growth, and an ever-growing thirst for adventure as they paddled down the East Coast. Upon landing in Miami—in addition to raising $16,000 for charity—their epic journey earned them the coveted "Top Expedition" award at the 2016 SUP Awards. Here, the Atlantic SUPer Girls share their story.
Tell us about your background with SUP.
LH: I started standup paddling five years ago working at The Manhattan Kayak Company (MKC) in Manhattan. When I began working the company did not have an official SUP program, but when they launched it the next year I got in on the ground floor and grew with the program.
JG: I was always into watersports. I started rowing at a very young age back home in Buenos Aires, then took up kayaking when I moved to NYC where I became an instructor and guide. In the summer of '07, we bought a couple of boards from C4Waterman and got them shipped from Hawaii and it all evolved from there.
What inspired you to paddle from NYC to Miami?
JG: I was always attracted to the idea of expeditions— the spirit of exploration, challenging and going beyond what you thought possible. MKC is a very interesting community of paddlers—I got to meet a lot of great expeditioners in New York. The stories they have, I never get tired of hearing.
I wanted my own stories to tell. So I set a goal to paddle solo around the largest island on the East Coast. I circumnavigated Long Island in eleven days on my BIC Wing 12’6. It was the scariest thing I’d ever done, but eleven days seemed short and I wanted to do something longer. After three months of toying with different options, heading south at the end of the season, straight out the ramp of our boathouse felt like the best option. All I needed was a partner. Lou was onboard before I even had a plan.
How far did you paddle each day?
LH: The entire trip took us exactly four months. At first we started out paddling between 10-15 miles per day, but little by little the days got longer and we got stronger and by the end we were doing 20+ miles per day on average.
What gear did you bring?
JG: We had two Aleutian and two Yukon bags from Watershed, two 10ltr MSR Dromedaries, Camelbacks, Sea To Summit and SeaLine drybags, a Mountain Hardware Trango two-person tent, sleeping bags and pads, kitchen stove, twi collapsible bowls and a mug, spoons, LuminAid lights and Goal Zero (portable charging) panels.
What was the most challenging part?
LH: If I had to choose one thing, it would be the wind. It never seemed to stop! Though I have to admit, some of the most beautiful beaches that we landed on we never would have seen or gotten to explore if we weren’t blown off the water onto them.
JG: There wasn’t a particular geographical spot. Every part of the coast had its challenges. Winds in NC, the dropping temps in NJ, storms in GA, the mud flats in VA, being wet all the time, being cold, hungry or tired of the same limited diet, hating not being able to paddle because of weather systems, or not being able to take a day off because of ideal weather. All of it was a challenge.
The most rewarding part?
LH: I don’t think it’s possible to narrow it down to any one thing—between just the experience of the trip itself, getting to see and explore parts of the coast that I would probably never have known existed otherwise, and the amazing friends we met along the way.
JG: Tackling all of these challenges, day after day and seeing the little blue dots add up and start to contour the east coast of the United States south of NYC was invigorating.
What advice would you give to someone interested in attempting a similar journey?
LH: DO IT! If it's really important to you and you feel that pull in your gut to go, then go! Of course do your research, know your route options, and be safe.
JG: DO. IT. It’s beautiful out there. And the entire population of the East Coast will be there to support you. Be prepared (mostly mentally), seek the locals’ advice, and take your time. No rush.
So, what's next?
LH: Good question. We have a list; we definitely want to go back and finish the Keys and another long trip is hopefully not far off. I’ve been working on making contacts for what I hope will be a pretty epic trip and if all goes well we’ll be able to share more about it soon.
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