While water sports probably don't top your list of recreational activities unless you live fairly close to Galveston or the Bay Area, one such source of outdoor fun may be right outside your backyard.
On Saturday, I drove out to Sugar Land's Brooks Lake, where Beau Brown of SurfSUPTX hosts paddle boarding group lessons and eco tours across Texas and the Houston area.
When Brown isn’t working his day job at AEGIS Hedging Solutions, he’s out on the water near the Oyster Creek Boathouse, 15910 Creekbend Drive.
Many local kayakers, rowers and paddle boarders launch out of the boathouse, though several houses along the creek also have their own private docks.
Brown said he has been hosting lessons in Sugar Land for the past six years.
One of the biggest misconceptions about paddle boarding that Brown told me he addresses with newcomers is the notion that you need to be athletic to participate.
According to a report from the Outdoor Foundation, since 2013, paddle boarding is one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States. The aid of a paddle, as opposed to a traditional surfboard, and calmer waters away from the Gulf Coast can make for a much easier introduction to the sport.
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“Everybody thinks it’s going to be hard,” Brown said. “And that you’re going to fall in the water. These boards are so stable, you could dance on them. All it takes is a love of the water and a willingness to get out of your comfort zone.”
A standard stand up paddle board is between 10-11 feet long and 32-34 inches wide. Brown said. Some boards are designed more for speed and advanced riders, and others are crafted to favor balance and durability with beginners in mind.
Brown said he has an “eclectic mix” of customers from all over the world, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Japan, Russia and Ukraine.
“It attracts people from all walks of life,” Brown said. “Different ages, different fitness levels. There’s some commonality you find out on the water.”
One of the first paddlers to return to the dock from the group of six students doing their 3.1 mile trip through Brooks Lake was Rhonda Hubenak-Martinez, of Sugar Land.
She is one of Brown’s more experienced students, having attended his classes for the last two years.
Hubenak-Martinez said she works for Keller Williams, an Austin-based real estate company, and was first exposed to paddle boarding when she went to Texas’ capital on a business trip.
“We have a convention in Austin every year,” Hubenak-Martinez said. “The convention center is right by Lady Bird Lake. You always see (people) out there paddling. But I could never get anybody to go with me.”
When she returned home, she said she searched for paddle boarding lessons in Houston, where she found Brown.
“I’m loving it,” Hubenak-Martinez said. “(Brown) is very patient, a very good instructor.”
Whether you’re looking for leisurely sightseeing or fishing or an intense full-body workout, Brown said paddling has something to offer to people at all levels.
“If you want to train and put in miles in and work on your physical fitness, it’s a great mechanism for that,” Brown said. “It makes the waterways accessible to people. You see things you wouldn’t otherwise see. I’m happy to bring people out and watch them grow and mature as paddlers, and they become great ambassadors for the sport.”
Lessons for ages 7-65 are offered from 9-10:30 a.m., 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. or 1-2:30 p.m.on Saturday and Sunday and cost $50 per person.