Solo SUP™ First Look in the Florida Keys

Solo SUP™ First Look in the Florida Keys

February 21, 2021

SOLO SUP™ BACKCOUNTRY FIRST LOOK IN THE FLORIDA KEYS

The Solo SUP™ Backcountry onboard the Kai Mana sailboat

TO SAY CHRISTIAN AND I HAVE BEEN GREATLY ANTICIPATING THE RELEASE OF THE SOLO SUP IS AN UNDERSTATEMENT.

If you know us here at Pau Hana you know we all love to travel and we pretty much don’t go anywhere without a SUP or two. Like many adventure sport athletes moving our equipment around can sometimes feel like crewing on Shackleton’s Endurance. There are also those far-out waterways that call out to be felt underfoot on the deck of a SUP but are difficult to reach. Now, these adventures can be accessed a little more easily in a compact and lightweight package.  

 

Ocean Cullen sitting next to the Solo SUP™ Backcountry  on the Kai Mana

Ocean next to the Pau Hana Solo SUP™ Backcountry

When we first opened the box It was surprising how small the whole package was packed down into. The backpack dry bag holds the board, pump, paddle, leash, fins, and also has room for food, water, and other accessories needed on an outing. Out of the box the entire package weighs only 23 lbs. My wife Christian and I along with our two-year-old son Ocean recently moved onto a 30 ft. Catamaran sailboat named Kai Mana in the Florida Keys so have been especially excited about this board due to our space and weight storage limitations.  

The Solo SUP™ Backcountry rolled up in the dry bag backpack

On board the Kai Mana

After inflated when we picked it up it literally felt like a 10 ft. feather. We tossed the Solo overboard and hopped on. Immediately the board felt quick and nimble. Our first paddle began in a Lagoon where our boat Kai Mana is anchored at Curry Hammock State Park near Marathon in the Florida Keys. From the lagoon, we entered a water trail through the Mangroves with little Ocean sitting on the bow. We told him we were paddling through a dinosaur forest and his face lit up with delight. The narrow channel emptied into a smaller and hidden lagoon on the west side of the park. The water was only a few feet deep and crystal clear. You could see hundreds of small round jellyfish in the shallow water. While paddling back out towards the Atlantic we saw a few redfish, several stingrays, and a couple of small bonnethead sharks.  

Launching the Solo SUP™ Backcountry from the Kai Mana sailnboat

Getting ready to launch the Solo SUP™ Backcountry for the first time

On our next paddle, we tested out the Solo’s hiking capacity. We had been eyeing up a dredged-out “quarry” on the gulf side of Curry Hammock that looked like good spiny lobster habitat. If you have never had spiny lobster, a warm water variety of the crustacean found throughout the Keys and the Caribbean, seek it out as soon as you can. Warm water lobsters do not have the edible claws of their northern cousins however they make up for it in their sweeter and more tender tail. Part of moving onto a sailboat this year was to become more autonomous and living off of the sea was a major goal. We had yet to catch a lobster for dinner so this was the perfect chance.

Hiking with the Solo SUP™ Backcountry inflatable paddleboard to go fishing for the day

Hiking with the Solo SUP™ Backcountry and accessories for a day fishing

We loaded the Solo Drybag with snorkel, fins, weight belt, lobster gear, and Hawaiian Sling in case we came across some Snapper or Jacks while free diving. The bag carried the gear well and we began the trek in. When we arrived we pumped up the board and loaded it with the hunting gear. Diving with the Solo attached to my weight belt allows us to bring along other tools of the trade to maximize our foraging in the sea. For example, I will usually dive with the Sling spear in case it is possible to get a fish while locating lobster. Because lobster doesn’t move much during the day, once they are discovered I can go back to the board, swap out the spear for net and tickle stick and retrieve the lobster.

The Solo SUP™ Backcountry loaded with fishing gear ready for a spear fishing session

The Solo SUP™ Backcountry ready to fish from

On this outing, we dove the rock shelf looking for lobster antennae sticking out of their hiding places with a tickle stick, net, and measuring device on the ready. Throughout the day we had 15 lobster in our nets but unfortunately, they were all undersized so they were all released underwater. We saw a few barracuda when we first got in the water and several parrotfish but nothing worth shooting at.

Getting flippers on on the Solo SUP™ paddleboard

Getting ready to spear fish

Back on shore, our nets remained empty but our spirits were full. We had easily accessed a once difficult place to hunt for dinner with the support of a SUP. It didn’t hurt that when we didn’t catch our meal we had an unbelievable place to paddle all to ourselves. In the Keys, space seems different. There are wide open seas intermixed with tucked-in spots that feel like other worlds. This was one of those spots.

Coming in from a paddling session on the Solo SUP™ Backcountry inflatable paddleboard

Coming back to shore after a day on the water

When Christian told me she wanted to move onto a sailboat back in April of 2020 I thought she was a little crazy. First of all, we don’t really know how to sail. We are both kiteboarding instructors so we kind of know how to sail, but not really, and especially not so much on a large vessel. The last three months living aboard and learning to sail had been peppered with a variety of challenges but overall, moving on to this boat for 3 and a half months over the winter was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. All of the cliches about boat life are true and are sometimes difficult but the reward is always being on the water and in nature. Out here we are always ready to go for a paddle or a kite on a whim when the conditions become just right.

Christian Edie enjoying some Solo time on the Solo SUP™ Backcountry paddleboard

Christian enjoying some Solo time

There are many lessons that come with living on a sailboat. One that is priceless is to choose wisely what you bring on board. As said above, space and weight are limited so for us the Solo is a game-changer living on the water. The board inflated sits along our lifelines and when packed down is easily stowed away. We use the board to explore deeper into the places we visit and often to shuttle to shore.

Paddling in front of the Kai Mana sailboat on the Solo SUP™

Sunset over the sailboat

As the seasons now begin to change we are getting ready to leave our vessel for another spring/summer/fall on the shores of Lake Erie in Western New York. Our boat Kai Mana will stay in the keys rented out on Air BnB with Cute Boat Co. on Stock Island just outside of Key West but our Solos will always stay by our side as a dozen packed down could easily fit in the trunk of our vehicle. So far we’ve only had the chance to paddle it on flat water with a little wind but we can’t wait to see how the Solo handles in the surf, on downwinders, and in whitewater. Stay tuned and we will put it to the test in the wild conditions of America’s Great Lakes while asking “Could this be the perfect all-around-go-anywhere board?”  

The Pau Hana Solo SUP™ is the first 'hikeable' paddleboard

Solo SUP™ Backcountry is the first 'Hikeable' paddleboard

You can find the latest Press Release for the Solo SUP™ Backcountry here.

Written by Kevin Cullen

CHECK OUT OUR GALLERY

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tropical waters of hawaii are great for paddleboarding

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