Searching Southeast Asia

Photography by Zach Mahone

An Inflatable Adventure In a Land of Water

In the spring of 2017, Colorado climbing buddies Zach Mahone and David Peterson hopped on a plane and flew across the Pacific to Southeast Asia. Their plan was simple: travel with inflatable SUPs and explore as much water and rock as they could. Their adventures took them from Vietnam to Cambodia to Thailand, experiencing a variety of colorful cultures, stunning locales and myriad people. Southeast Asia is a feast for the senses. We thought we’d just let the photos do the talking. Enjoy.


Deepwater soloing (climbing over the water without a rope) was amazing. It’s crazy how fast you get far up and get the fear (of heights) in you. It’s dynamic and very much choose your own adventure.

We climbed off Cat Ba Island, near Ha Long Bay. The climbing via SUP worked really well with two people as one would drop the climber off and pull the board away.

There were communities of people that actually live on the water in floating villages. That was one of the more crazy things for me to experience. There were people making their living raising fish at their little homes in mini fish farms. —Zach

During the boat rides from Cat Ba Island toward Ha Long Bay we passed floating villages. Some huts were roughly 10-feet square and surrounded by fisheries. One home had an entire wall taken up by an enormous flat screen TV. The juxtaposition was jaw-dropping. The television probably cost more that all the materials used to build the home.

While exploring Ha Long Bay with the boards, our favorite activity was discovering hidden lagoons. The first time we floated into the darkness cast by the limestone ceiling of a seemingly endless cave, fear and doubt bobbed in our minds. It wasn’t until we just about reached absolute darkness that our eyes adjusted enough to see the faint glimmer of light reflecting from the water onto the fa r ceiling of the cave.

With an end in sight we paddled faster, lying on our boards because the rock was only inches above. Inside the lagoon the water was green glass, standing still in the shelter from the wind. The jungle above was a mosaic of every color of green, and the black and orange limestone dove fiercely into the water and while simultaneously reaching towards the sky. —David


The standups were great tools to explore. We went to the SUP Station in Bangkok and they took us down this canal that took us behind houses and into the city. We were going in from the backside with locals. Without SUPs we wouldn’t have searched that unbeaten part of the city. It was a really intimate way of experiencing the culture. —Zach

The canals of Bangkok are lined with local vendors and residents, but we got the feeling that foreigners floating through the channels were a rare sight. I tried out one of their rafts. It was a large piece of foam, with grass growing on all sides. The paddle was a blue piece of plastic pipe with a hand-shaped wooden paddle. I couldn’t believe anyone could ferry across the river with these tools. I just spun in circles on the square piece of foam trying not to fall in. —David

In Chiang Mai they had a cave tour and we heard there was a river at the bottom of it. We dragged the gear down and blew up the board and went and explored. It was short but worth it. Cruising in the cave under the stalactites was pretty rad. I think we’re probably the only humans to ever do that. —Zach


When you’re traveling it’s good to get hooked up with locals and our friends recommended this tuk tuk driver, Somnang Kung. We strapped the boards on top and paddled anywhere that looked cool. —Zach

Somnang was the man! We were stoked to have him tour us around in his new prized tuk tuk. He got a kick out of it too, cruising around Kampot with two huge SUPs on the roof. —David

SUP is growing enough in Southeast Asia that you can find boards almost wherever you go. They definitely allowed us to explore this exotic region more. —Zach

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