As the Stand Up Paddle industry continues to grow, many retailers within the action sports and outdoors space are starting to align themselves around this category, whether it’s carrying just a few SUP options or creating an entire livelihood around it.
For Matt Hudgens, owner at Central Coast Paddling in Morro Bay, California, the passion around the Stand Up Paddle lifestyle has translated into a retail location and most recently an event that came to life not too long ago called the Big SUP—a paddling trip along the coast through Big Sur that aims to support clean oceans.
Opening his shop doors in 2010, Hudgens has been steadily looking for ways to raise awareness around environmental issues such as plastic pollution, and says the trip signifies not only an adventure he’s wanted to take since making the move to San Luis Obispo five years ago, but also a way to get a larger message across to a community of those who appreciate the ocean and the California Coast just as much as he does. He has partnered with local business Quivers, a digital platform aiming to solve channel conflict, as well as Klean Kanteen and several other industry brands, and has put together a team of seasoned paddlers to make the trek, which will launch on Wednesday from Point Lobos and journey nearly 50 miles along the coastline to Cayucos, California.
Along the way the crew plans to clean up the beaches and gather research information about plastic and other debris they find, as a way to support the 5 Gyres campaign and its similar expedition efforts. We caught up with Hudgens before the big trip to hear more about how the idea came together, why he supports beach cleanups, and ways others can get involved in supporting the cause.
Why did you decide on Big Sur for this inaugural journey? What makes the cause behind this trip special to you and the crew, and how will you be getting the message out?
The Big Sur coast is well known as a special place. A place where the land meets the sea so abruptly that simply building and maintaining a road through the region is a major engineering marvel, yet also so beautiful and dramatic that all the effort involved in maintaining Highway 1 through it is well worth the effort. Though rugged and difficult to access, Big Sur still has a long, colorful, and at times problematic relationship with humanity and civilization. Since the pioneer days mankind has found ways to exploit Big Sur, from mining and logging activities, to using its rugged coastline to escape detection for bootlegging operations, to harvesting its raw power to fuel beatniks and bohemians, their communities, and some of America’s best writers and artists.
From Miller to Kerouac, from pot growers to anti-social surfers, from elephant seals to great whites, and all the other untold numbers of unknown traveler’s, Big Sur has long captivated our imagination, and also represented a last, unspoiled, stretch of coastline. Today Big Sur, though pristine by many standards, faces challenges to stay that way, just like the rest of the planet. In our journey we will document this special stretch of California’s coast, which has inspired so much in our culture. Moving at paddling pace we will get a close up picture of where Big Sur is, right now, that will prove invaluable, as time goes by, to help us gauge how well we are caring for our environment. Of special concern is detection and removal of possible Fukishima debris, which is hitting the western US coast. The remote beaches of Big Sur, most of which are only accessible by paddlecraft, could well be catching and holding potentially radioactive debris. If so it is imperative we are aware and actively moving toward a solution to safely remove the trash.
In today’s world of social media and instant updates, we want to embrace our new reality and use the largest platform possible, through a network of our partners’ social media outlets, to provide real-time updates of our progress and our experiences.
Who came up with the concept and how long have you been planning this?
I moved to Cayucos 5 years ago, and starting SUPing at the same time. Big Sur has held a special place in my heart since I first journeyed through at 19, and I’ve spent considerable time in the area off and on over the years. I had always been interested in possibly Sea Kayaking it, but I’ve never been much of a sea kayaker…I came from the whitewater world and sea kayaking is a little slow paced. But, for some reason, perhaps the added challenge of standing or maybe just my own perspective has changed as I’ve aged and become a parent, SUPing this stretch seems the ideal way to see this coast, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since I first thought of it. The idea has been germinating for about 5 years now; it’s been actively planned for about 6 months.
What and/or who does the Big SUP benefit and how did you identify a need to raise awareness around this topic?
This journey is inspired by my own need for adventure, and to see what’s around the next bend…I climbed it because it was there, if you will. But, because we live in a complex world, with too many problems and not enough solutions, I also wanted to use the journey to add something positive to the world. Clean water has always been of the utmost importance to me, and with the rapidly growing issues around plastic, their proper disposal, their (hopefully) eventual elimination from our lives, etc., it was pretty obvious that focusing on a Plastic Free Ocean would be the most natural fit for our trip.
Who will be participating in the inaugural event, and what does that journey look like? How many total will be SUPing this time around?
Thus far the team is myself, Nikki Gregg, Mark Olson, Mike Simpson, Scott McGuire, Jim Glinn, and Ken Hoeve. All are industry professionals with decades of paddling experience.
Talk about which sponsors/brands you’ve aligned yourselves with to get this event off the ground and why did it make sense to choose these particular companies as partners?
The trip really coalesced when Quivers.com sponsored it, which was by fortune, not planning! BIC Sport has been onboard, as has Northwest River Supplies (NRS ) because many of the athletes on the journey are sponsored by them. I approached our sponsors Kleen Kanteen and Elemental Herbs because of their dedication to being socially and environmentally responsible businesses.
Do you see this event as recurring annually, and what are your plans over the next couple of months to start building that momentum moving into next year?
This is a hard one. I see doing a trip like this again someday as a fully self-supported mission, no five star luxury accommodations, as cool as they are. Otherwise, personally, I would prefer to use this momentum to build towards another expedition, other new corners to see what’s around. That’s just my nature though. I do have my thoughts on a couple other long distance SUP journeys. Since surfing is my passion, they are tending towards bringing some element of surf into the trip. There is some good surf in Big Sur, and I will be paddling a special expedition board made by Corran Addison Designs that has a small surfing SUP nested in a longer expedition SUP…two boards in one. This concept I’m really excited about and I’m looking forward to how it will open up access to waves that, right now, are pretty hard to get to.
Talk about the Big Sur portion of the journey – how did you align with Quivers to make this happen, and what are you most excited about around the Big Sur Ranch, etc.?
Jason [Linker, Quivers founder] and I ran into each other at a SUP demo here in Morro Bay. We were catching up with one another, and I mentioned the trip. He was instantly intrigued and wanted to be a part of it. The properties we get to stay at are so unique and special that there was no way I was going to turn down the opportunity, although there is still a little part of me that misses the idea of doing the entire stretch with no outside support, but I’ll live though. [laughs].
Why is this event/cause important and why should it be on people’s radars, whether they are in the SUP, surf, or any watersports related industry?
It’s not just clean oceans, or just clean water. Water, fresh or salty, is the most precious resource we have. Drinking water that belongs to everyone is being turned into a commodity. The desire for cheap, subsidized products is a major cause contributing to pollution of rivers, lakes, and oceans. Seafood is becoming inedible due to mercury concentrations and, now, radiation. And the problem of plastics is not going away in our lifetime, but if we act now, perhaps our grandchildren will inherit a better world. Now that would be a first…imagine being part of the generation that actually passed on a world better than it received it.
How can people get involved in this event or other beach clean ups and organized expeditions?
We welcome all who wish to get involved in the cause or the trip. My shop is sort of the HQ for the trip, it is Central Coast SUP, at 1215 Embarcadero in Morro Bay, CA. The shop’s number is (805)395-0410. Also email is good, firstname.lastname@example.org. Plus check us out on Facebook, The Big SUP