(ROCKWALL, TX — March 23, 2018) There are those who will stand up for a good cause, and then there’s Aaron Gonzalez, a 32-year-old Austin, Texas native who will undertake a 400+ mile stand up paddle board journey in support of Rockwall-based nonprofit Patriot PAWS Service Dogs.
Gonzalez will launch this intense adventure dubbed “Paddle for Patriot PAWS” on April 1, starting from Boca Chica Beach located about 15 miles south of South Padre on the Texas–Mexico border and following the coast to his final destination on the Texas–Louisiana border at Port Arthur. One hundred percent of all donations to his Paddle for Paws GoFundMe will go directly to Patriot PAWS, a national 501(c)(3) that trains and provides service dogs at no cost to disabled American veterans.
The whole journey will end up totaling around 400 to 450 miles, depending on wind and wave conditions.
“If I end up having to go inner coastal for part of the trip due to wind conditions, it’ll end up being closer to 450 miles because of all the shipping channels and such that you have to go in and around,” Gonzalez said. “For the most part I’m going to try and stay outer coastal, camping on the beach and carrying all of my provisions.”
Those provisions include 10 days’ worth of food and two gallons of water, which Gonzalez said he’ll have carry with him on his paddle board at all times in a 2.5-gallon cooler. He plans to mail himself re-supplies much like people do when they hike the Appalachian trail or the Pacific Crest Trail which spans 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada. The resupplies should reach him every five days, although Gonzalez said there will be four stretches of about 50 to 80 miles long where he won’t be able to resupply at all.
Gonzalez hopes to make 30 miles per day and estimates the trip will take him 14 to 25 days, alluding to husband and wife surf instructor team Gene and Rachel Gore’s successful paddle board journey of over 400 miles along the Texas coast in 2004. Even under harsh weather conditions, the couple managed to finish their trip in 19 days.
“I have enough extra supplies so that if it takes longer I can stay longer and not have to call somebody for help. Hopefully the weather and the wind will work with me. If I can make the miles, I’ll have it done in 14 days,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez developed his passion for the outdoors as a kid when his family would take trips to national parks and places around the world every year. He purchased his dream truck in 2015 – a 2000 Land Rover Discovery II. With his faithful canine companion by his side, an outdoors-loving Doberman named Skyy, Gonzalez adventures across the country and around the world doing almost every type of outdoor sporting activity one can think of: skydiving, scuba diving, free diving, backpacking, hiking, overlanding, rock climbing, spelunking, adventure motorcycle touring, and most recently, long distance bike riding and kayaking.
Paddle boarding is a relatively new endeavor for Gonzalez, who first picked it up during an adventure hunt he participated in last year.
“First and foremost it’s a lot of balance, especially out there where you’re having to contend with a lot of waves and wind. But it’s also a lot of muscle control,” Gonzalez said.
During the first hour-long paddle boarding session Gonzalez experienced, he said his feet were the first thing to get worn out and would cause him to have to sit and paddle or paddle on his knees. To alleviate the pressure on his toes, he got himself a pair of shoes with individual toe pockets. The shoes have been a real gamechanger for Gonzalez during longer paddle boarding sessions.
“That’s probably been the biggest thing that has helped me out,” Gonzalez said.
Even with the shoes, Gonzales said after a while you really start to feel the strain on just about every part of the body.
“When you really start pushing it’s getting into your shoulders, back, stomach and legs,” he said. “It’s kind of everything at that point. It’s a very physical activity.”
Besides the muscle aches and potential for harsh weather conditions, Gonzalez said another thing he’ll have to watch for during his trip are the sharks, or alligators once he reaches Louisiana. But his biggest fears are the things he said he can’t see coming, such as an unexpected injury or an illness, which would prevent him from completing the trip.
“The biggest thing that scares me is not being able to complete the trip for some unforeseen reason, like if I get hurt or get sick,” Gonzalez said. “For as long as I have been training and planning for this, and all the sponsors and people following this trip, I would feel like I was letting everybody down if I couldn’t finish it.”
Gonzalez looks forward to the self-discovery and adventure of the journey, to the people he will meet along the way who might be following his progress and want to come paddle with him or spend time with him on the beach.
“I definitely see a lot of great things coming out of this and I’m hoping I can raise Patriot PAWS as much money as I can,” Gonzales said.
Gonzalez will film the entire trip with his four GoPro 5 Black cameras and DJI Spark drone, and folks can track his progress live on his website at aaronoverland.org. To donate to the Paddle for Patriot PAWS GoFundMe visit www.gofundme.com/paddleforpaws.
By Austin Wells, Blue Ribbon News.
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