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  • Writer's picturePaul Clark

Paddle Boarding Chile

I'm back home in the States after spending nearly three months in Chile. Whereas my friends and family celebrated the heaviest winter in over a decade (many cursed it after awhile), I enjoyed a southern hemisphere summer.

I can get used to the endless summer thing.

Here is an overview of the journey.

Rio Puelo Valley paddle boarding.

Rio Petrohue whitewater paddle boarding.

Pucatrihue SUP surf session with penguins.

Lago Llanquihue rough water SUP clinic.

I partnered with ViveSUP Expeditions to do multi-day sup-support trips in the Rio Puelo Valley in norther Patagonia. It would be an exploration year, determining what was possible and where. We were there to do a few river clinics as well and introduce people to adventure paddle boarding.

My role was to be the river expert, media guy, consultant, and risk manager. (We all have our parts to play.)

What we discovered is a country where paddle boarding is all but non-existent. Every piece of gear we had to bring with us from the States, and nearly every place we paddled was a first for any SUP board. We also found a world where time is measured more by the season than the day.

Once we left the cities, the real reason to travel half-way across the

world opened itself to us. The Rio Puelo Valley is populated by indigenous Mapucha peoples who received us with open hearts. We were offered ox-cart portages and water taxis; we were provided accommodations in hand built cabins; and were guests to a traditional lamb BBQ where we talked with the community chief about life in the Puelo.

We paddled on the Rio Puelo, and on the Tagua-Tagua, Rocas, and Inferior lakes. We stayed in luxury on Isla Bandurrias, and drank craft beer at Mitico Lodge. We hiked to backpackers shelters, climbed to water falls, and contemplated the meaning of life under the stars.

None of this would have been possible without the local knowledge and cultural understanding of Eduardo Hernandez, my ViveSUP Expeditions partner. He was the key to every place we traveled where tourists rarely go.

December we spent buried in the tedium of expedition preparation, scouting, gear organization, vehicle maintenance.... Fortunately we were able to get in some surf in at Mar Brava near Eduardo's home town of Carelmapu, ran some quality whitewater, and we hosted a river clinic.

In January we ran two different 8-day trips in the Puelo. Clients from Canada, Australia, and Argentina joined us. They had energy, enthusiasm, and boldness. And it was because of them we had such a worthwhile journey.

February was another scouting mission, this time for rivers between Puerto Montt and Pucon. We spent a lot of time on the road with good friends in the green Hylux pickup we called the "Mystery Machine." When would that thing finally break down we wondered? It didn't, fortunately.

Along the way there were some pretty amazing rivers we paddled, including the Petrohue, San Pedro, Fuy, Palguin, and Trancura. There was some great times on the beach at Pucatrihue, and an enjoyable flatwater run through Valdivia.

Good times with good people in an amazing place. I guess that's what we look for when we travel.

Can't wait for next year. Who's with us?

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