Water Safari has first paddleboarder participate

Shane Perrin paddles his board down the San Marcos River during the first day of the Texas Water Safari on Saturday. Perrin is the first paddleboarder to compete in the event.

SAN MARCOS - Minutes before Shane Perrin began possibly the zaniest ride he's ever undertaken, he spoke with a man in the brush along the banks of the San Marcos River.

The St. Louis resident was explaining why he entered a boat race nearly 900 miles away from home that no one figured he could finish.

It's not that Perrin wasn't prepared or didn't have the stamina. He just didn't have the right equipment.

"I'm used to the distance (of racing) for days," Perrin said. "In the end, the only difference is the portages and the rougher water."

For the past three years, the 36 year-old Perrin has been a stand-up paddleboarder. In short, while the 134 other entrants in the Texas Water Safari would be sitting down in canoes or kayaks, Perrin would be on his feet for the entire 260-mile trip downriver.

The fact Perrin could enter the race is what makes the Texas Water Safari unique, said Peter Heed, a former president of the U.S. Canoe Association.

Heed, the author of "Canoe Racing: Competitors Guide to Maration and Downriver Canoe Racing", has raced in Florida, Luxemburg, France, Australia, China and Thailand. He noted different parts of the world have various types of canoe racing, but there are few races that would allow single and double-bladed paddlers to compete against each other, let alone a paddleboarder to enter the competition.

"There are different types of boats," Heed marveled. " What you're seeing out there where you have six-man, four-man and three-person boats, and they have rudders, those are unique and they don't exist anywhere else."

More than 5,000 competitors have entered the Texas Water Safari during its history, but it is suspected Perrin is the first stand-up paddleboarder to enter the race.

Moments before the race began Saturday morning, Perrin said his goal was to simply make it to Seadrift.

"(I have) mixed emotions," Perrin said. "Pretty much everyone I've talked to said there is a zero percent probability that I'll finish, so that just pushes me to work harder."

His journey was certainly the talk of the race. Whether it was the starting line in San Marcos, or various checkpoints down river, there were murmurs and rumors that a paddleboarder had entered the 50th Texas Water Safari.

Perrin entered in the Men's Solo competition. Though he was one of the last paddlers at each of the 10 checkpoints, he eventually made his way down the San Marcos and Guadalupe rivers.

Perrin was still on the river as of 9 p.m. Tuesday, and was located at that time at Highway 35 along the Guadalupe River.