Gabriel Gray, living his SUP life in style. Photo: Jackson Berger

The SUP Lifestyle: Gabriel Gray

There are many common routes to standup paddling: through surfing, through outrigger, through kayaking. And then there are the unusual paths. Gabriel Gray—fireman, EMT, adventure paddler, SUP business owner and conservationist—has one of those.

Born and raised on a 100-acre farm in Monticello, Florida, Gray spent his youth hunting, fishing, exploring and competing in rodeos. At 17, he went pro as a rodeo rider and spent the next decade traveling all over America.

When that chapter closed, he moved back to Florida, where he took his first job as a structure firefighter in Panama City and discovered SUP in 2006.

"It just came naturally," Gray says. "You can get into swampy backwater areas and duck hunt and fly-fish where a lot of boats can't go."

From that background grew a love for paddling missions and for conservation that has only grown—when he can fit it into his schedule as an EMT and firefighter at South Walton Fire Department.

In 2014 Gray and his wife, Natalie, started Fight to Save Our American Rivers (SOAR), an organization aimed at, "combining stewardship, science, exploration, adventure and sport all into one package to show the true outdoorsman lifestyle."

The group has snowballed since the first trip on the Flint River in Georgia, which was then number two on the American Rivers Most Endangered list. He's since done projects on the Buffalo River in Arkansas, Gore Creek in Colorado and recently, Gray has been giving talks on his paddles, planning more trips and teaching multi-day SUP camping clinics.

"I decided to start bringing people on these trips that had never done this style of paddle before," he says. "To take them out there and teach them and watch them and guide them and see them change from the beginning to the end. I love witnessing that and seeing what paddleboarding in nature does for people." —Will Taylor

This installment of The SUP Lifestyle is the first in a seven-part series from our 2016 Summer “Lifestyle” Issue.

More From the Mag.