written by Matthew Thomson
Austin, Texas offers stand up paddle (sup) boarders a variety of waterways, warm water and a thriving community of paddlers, with plenty of resources when it comes to finding sup buddies and paddle gear.
Red Bud Isle staring out at the multiple stand up paddle (sup) possibilities in Austin, Texas. Photos courtesy of Matt Thomson.
AUSTIN, Texas – Deep in the heart of Texas… there's a Stand Up Paddler's paradise. Austin has been the capital of Texas for over 100 years, and the "Live Music Capitol" for as long as most can remember. In the last three years Austin has also become the SUP capital of Texas. Despite hundreds of miles of coastline and the much larger metro areas of Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio, it's Austin that has managed to capture the hearts and paddles of SUP'ers in central Texas and beyond. Austin is surrounded by beautiful, rocky and rolling terrain and contains countless lakes, rivers and creeks. (Join the 101 Places to SUP Group.)
Austin is a year round paddle destination. During our blazing hot summers, being in and around the water is a necessity. Summer is the favorite season for most paddlers. You'll find the waterways in Austin crowded with carefree paddlers on every watercraft imaginable. Fall and spring bring warm days, calm winds and plenty of sunshine to enjoy. Winter, though overlooked by many, holds unexpected treasures for the intrepid paddler. In winter the waters are still and quiet, usually shared only with the migratory birds that make Austin their winter home. The winter air temperatures often reach the 80's and water temperatures rarely dip below 60. (Befriend Matt Thomson on Supconnect.)
2. Hot Spots
Lady Bird Lake
Red Bud Isle
Lady Bird Lake
Austin's number one paddle spot is Lady Bird Lake (aka Town Lake). Because no motorized boats are allowed on Lady Bird Lake, it's a dedicated playground for human-powered craft. The lake (actually a dammed river) flows for seven miles through the heart of Austin allowing paddlers to be in the downtown action while having their toes in the water. Few spectacles can match the sublime beauty of a sunset paddle on Lady Bird Lake in late summer. The downtown buildings glow with the reflection of the setting sun in the west, all mirrored in the glass smooth waters under foot. (Join the Sup Gear Talk Group.)
Lady Bird Lake offers a myriad of fascinating paddle routes, one being the Barton Springs outflow. The crystal clear spring waters flow directly from the famous Barton Springs Pool. This paddle, best enjoyed at high noon, can feel like paddling in an aquarium with hordes of turtles, perch, bass, carp and other wildlife teaming beneath you in the cool, translucent waters.
Red Bud Isle
Red Bud Isle is another fun corner of Lady Bird Lake to explore. This island park, long a favorite of dog's and their owners, provides a one mile paddle loop that showcases the lush green cliffs. When the dam is open the mild current can provide a challenge to the more advanced paddler and the small standing waves will put a smile on the face of SUP surfers. (View Sup Events in your Area.)
Less than a mile up the road, on the upper side of the dam is another favorite paddle spot, Lake Austin. This lake winds its way through twenty-one miles of towering cliffs, impressive water front homes and surprisingly serene stretches. The two water front restaurants, Hula Hut and Abel's on the Lake, are a perfect ending to an afternoon paddle with friends. Lake Austin has boat traffic so mornings, weekdays, or finding a secluded cove are recommended for avoiding crowds.
3. Other Paddlers
It's easy to find other paddler's in Austin - just head to the water! For something more organized, Centex SUP organizes group paddles year round. The Flat Water Foundation organizes a twenty-one mile paddle to support cancer patients and their families. Or put your paddle skills to the test on May 7 at the 2nd annual Austin SUP JAM race. (Befriend Matt Thomson on Supconnect.)
Need some new SUP gear? Austin Paddle Sports stocks dozens of boards and paddles. They have a knowledgeable staff that gives lessons and rentals from several locations on Lady Bird Lake. Paddle Zen is located on the east end of Lady Bird Lake and offer sales, rentals and clinics. Zem Surfboards offers SUP boards, paddles, accessories, and great ding repairs. Other SUP resources based in Austin: SUP Gladiator, The Expedition School, Lake Travis SUP, and Diablo Paddle Sports.
About Matt Thomson
Matt has been surfing Texas waves since childhood and SUP'ing Central Texas since 2005. He started Hill Country Surf, a SUP tour company in Austin, Texas in 2008. He recently launched, Wavecation.com, a directory of water front vacation rentals for surfers and SUP'ers. You can view his profile here, or visit his site at www.Wavecation.com.
Guiding Links & Other Information for Austin, Texas
Sup Jam: www.supjam.blogspot.com
Paddle Zen: www.paddlezen.com
Meetup Centex: www.meetup.com/CenTexSUP
Austin Paddle Sports: www.austinpaddlesports.com
Flatwater Foundation: www.flatwaterfoundation.org
Do you have any experience to share about stand up paddle (sup) boarding in Austin, Texas?