Introducing… SPI Sessions, Texas

Tell us about your SUP school…
SPI Sessions is a Surf, SUP & Science lessons school on South Padre Island, Texas. “Our mission is to provide beach life instructions that captures the stoke of surfing and athleticism, embraces the importance of healthy lifestyles, and installs environmental values and memories for a lifetime.” Our SUP School primarily focuses on the SUPKids program only at the moment. We are more than just a SUP School, we’re also are home to:  “The School of Surf and Ocean Safety”, “KidsYoga”, “Saturday Science Sessions” and “Soul Fuel: A Camp for MOMS!”.
What does a typical SUPKids day look like for you guys? 
There’s certainly nothing typical about South Padre Island besides it being an everyday paradise. We run a two-day SUPKids program. The day before, we prepare the kids camp t-shirts, reusable water bottles, ice, snacks, we make lunch arrangements and check the forecast and tides. If the surf is flat, we prefer to spend the day on the beach, but if there are waves we have a great spot on the bayside where we can pull our trailer right up to the water and set-up for the day. The area on the bayside is great for our SUP expeditions and also the small island around the waterway channels tend to be a catch-all for trash which serves as a great experience for the kids to learn about pollution. Our group of beach life instructors are always looking for the next adventure. We love teaching our SUPKids program and also finding ways to make it better. In addition to our 2-days of SUPKids, we also run a 3-day School of Surf & Ocean Safety along with a Saturday Science Session. Sundays are dedicated to giving back and special events! 

What’s the water temperature over there right now? (August 2018)

85 degrees F 

Do you have many problems regarding ocean plastics where you paddle?

 We have become more and more mindful of the variety of sources of our plastic pollution problem. South Padre Island, Texas is a peninsula island only 6-miles from the Rio Grande River and US/Mexico border. We tend to see plastics that might have travelled for years via the river to get to the ocean or our Laguna Madre bay. Much of the trash is a result of poor boat etiequette with lots of plastic bottles overboard. It is a nuisance and we are trying our best to educate and reduce this problem locally and encourage the change globally. 

Do you run any beach/sup clean-ups?

We are always finding ways to clean-up our beaches and bayside areas. We do a lot via our SUPKids Program, but we also produce events. Sunday July 15th we organized our first SUPKids GIVING BACK event. We partnered with an amazing organization called 4Oceans. This program has supplied us with all the necessary equipment we need to make the event even more great. Our volunteers recruited 240 lbs of trash of which 200 lbs was recyclables and recycled at our local City recycling Center. (We spent A LOT of time aggregating data).  

Do you give back to your local community? If so, what do you do? 

In addition to our clean-up events, we also host clinics for special needs children. Our region of South Texas has a surprising amount of special needs peopls that have never been exposed to surfing and SUPing. These events change lives and we are proud to be leading the way with these types of opportunities in our area. We will host our 3rd SPECIAL NEEDS SURFING CLINIC Sept. 15th. We have found great success partnering with local non-profit organizations that support the need for experiences for special needs children! 

What is the weather like for you in the winter? 

While the rest of Texas starts their winter in October, our island winter actually starts in late December and goes through mid March. We hardly ever will need anything more than a 4/3 wetsuit in the winter. We get many strong northerly’s which produce bigger swell, but mostly rough conditions for surfers. August through November we look forward to hurricane swells and fun conditions. 

What are the typical marine animals that you come across when paddling?

South Padre Island is well-known as a conservation island for the Kemps Ridley Sea Turtle. Volunteers search for turtle nests and assure their safety as well as provide an incubator space for the eggs or injured sea turtles. We have many dolphins and beautiful sting rays (especially in the summer with warm shallow waters). 

What is the typical route that you would take if you were about to embark on a micro adventure or SUP adventure?

Our typical micro adventure entails adventuring to “Trash Island,” a nearby waterway island. The area is actually called “the fingers” in a private waterway channel. We like to give the kids a tour of the various “island” there and let them name the island themselves. So far we’ve discovered, named, and conquered; “Shell Island”, “ Plastic Island”, and “Heron Island”. 

What do you love most about SUP’ing?

SUP is great for scoping whats happening in the water. You don’t have the same point-of-view with other sports. Definitely not while surfing and kiteboarding as you’re usually going to fast to truly scope the scene.

DREAM destination?

I just crossed South Africa off my list recently. Now, I need to visit Australia.  I fell in love with Koala bears when I was in the 3rd grade and ever since I’ve had a fascination. Of course, now its much more centered on the destination, people, culture and surf.

What other sports do you enjoy? 

I’ve been a competitive surfer for many years and was a freestyle kiteboarder for some time as well. I have switched mostly from flat water kiting to just kite surfing and hoping to grow into kiting bigger and faster waves. I love SUP racing and SUPing in the waves as well. They feel like completely different dimensions to the sport of SUP. I also enjoy sand volleyball, golf, basketball, and skateboarding.

How is your campaign going to ban plastic straws and stirrers on South Padre Island?

South Padre Island has already had momentum going for a few years to rid the island of plastic straws. We are home to an incredibly successful Sea Turtle Conservation and Rehabilitation Center Called Sea Turtle Inc With much attention brought to light about the impact straws have on our marine life, we have especially embraced the need for this change here. SPI Sessions joined Lonely Whale’s Strawless Ocean campaign at the top of the Summer season. We have worked vigorously at promoting the concept of an actual ordinance to ban the straws. We have recruited several food and beverage places on the island to stop using the plastics and switch to an Aardvark paper straw and solicited many signatures for the support of our campaign as well. We have given several presentations at our City Council meeting, met with our mayor and state representative to help advance the opportunity to implement this legislation. Our challenge is at the state level at this point. However, we are continually moving forward in making the change here locally.