Paddling in Wonderland

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The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down what seemed to be a very deep well. --Lewis Carroll, "Alice's Adventures In Wonderland"

The world of standup paddling runs just as deep as the rabbit hole Alice falls down in Lewis Carroll's seminal tale. If you're reading these words, it's likely you've already tripped into the SUP hole too. For my obsessive mind, it's just the place to be.

After fanatic bouts with rock climbing, snowboarding, mountain biking, running, surfing and backpacking I discovered SUP. The White Rabbit tempted me with a sport that combined so many things I love: the outdoors, physical activity, versatility, endless challenge and water. I'd always known I was a water person, but SUP gave me the vehicle to be on the water every day, no matter what the conditions were. This was my Wonderland.

Australian barrel savant Keahi de Aboitiz goes under cover for a slot in SUP’s 2018 Photo Annual. Just one of many stunning shots in the issue! Photo: Alan Van Gysen

First I got comfortable on a standup in the waves. Adding SUPs to the quiver opened up a whole new range of conditions. Next, I got into downwinding. Once I caught my first glides and realized I could surf for miles with no crowds, I was gone. Later, I spent a couple weeks in the mountains of the West, falling, swimming and occasionally standing through rapids. Racing would come later, but with no less intensity. Self-supported overnight trips soon followed, escalating in their length and commitment.

Today, I'm more addicted than ever. I may burn out on racing or bouncing down bony whitewater or chasing wind, but I never burn out on connecting with the water. There's always some SUP discipline that I'm excited to do.

Find your perfect fin setup in our Gear For The Long Haul feature on Page 40. Photo: Black-Schmidt

Because SUP is so broad and has so many aspects, you can always try something new or hone a skill. One of my favorite things about this job is bearing witness to Mad Hatter-like desire in the many corners of the standup world: the downwind junkies in Hood River, Oregon; the foil converts at Dog Patch in Southern California; the river tribes in the mountain west (read about their world on p. 30); the local paddle clubs on nearly any body of water across the world; the manufacturers that make the fantastic equipment you'll find in our annual Gear Guide (p. 44) and everything between. I love that there's room in this sport for anyone and everyone to follow whatever aquatic passions they stumble across.

Whether you choose one discipline or all of them, SUP provides life-long challenges that we can all enjoy at any level. Thanks for being part of the endless tea party in Wonderland; we're glad you joined us. --Will Taylor, Editor-in-Chief

Order your digital or print copy of the 2018 Gear Guide + Photo Annual today!