By Tom Schlichter
“I’m all about adventure,” says J. P. Garza, 51, of Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico. “I love to explore and discover natural new places, especially by water in the southeast of my country and in Central America.”
Garza has traveled most of these regions by roads, terraces and trails, not only by car but by mountain bike as well. In fact, until recently, he considered himself a serious cyclotourist. These days, however, he prefers touring with his Sea Eagle RazorLite® 473rl inflatable kayak (IK). He has paddled over 3,000 kms (1,900 miles,) he says, never repeating the same river, lagoon or sea shore.
“Water is a resource that abounds in this area,” explains Garza, “and it offers a different perspective when exploring and enjoying the natural world. Rivers are the oldest paths of my country and while many have forgotten their importance these days, they have served as the main means of communication in the jungle since the pre-Columbian era. That’s why their shores host old churches and abandoned ancient cities – and it’s why I think waterways are the best and most interesting means to discover and learn about the natural beauties and historical places that we have.”
Garza stresses such adventure and contact with nature must be accomplished with respect for the environment and an ecologically healthy approach. If it can also be inexpensive, so much the better. Inflatable kayaks, he says, are the perfect fit as they allow him to achieve all of the above. Being able to maintain a decent speed without the noise of an added motor lets him quietly cover plenty of water and leads to more wildlife encounters.
“Using my IK, I come across a lot of wild animals on these trips,” reveals Garza. “Some, like a jaguar I spotted in the Belize River, few people ever get to see in a natural setting.”
Another important reason for kayaking on these expeditions, states Garza, is that it allows access to places larger vessels can’t navigate due to rapids, shallow waters or other obstacles. What you can’t push through on the water, you can sometimes bypass by carrying your IK, he explains.
“Many of the places I explore have never been navigated,” continues Garza. “I do serious expedition tours, so I need a kayak that’s inflatable to have the freedom to transport it in any way: taxi, bus, Uber, car or even carrying it on my shoulder. Using my Sea Eagle RazorLite® I have navigated rapids, flat waters and the open sea. It’s extremely versatile, easily portable and – inflated at 10 psi -incredibly hard. Its overall performance is as good as a hard shell kayak yet it remains as portable as a regular IK. Sleek and narrow, it goes real fast but remains tough enough to take far from the nearest road with no concerns about getting back. Stability is another issue that kayakers are always worried about, but not me. My RazorLite® handles anything Mother Nature dishes out.”
Given his need to travel long distances – not always an easy task in the areas he explores -Garza especially appreciates that he can simply pack up his RazorLite® and bring it anywhere. He also loves that it folds into a small square that can be easily stored. Storage room is at a premium in many Mexican homes, he notes, so being able to put it away neatly is a real plus.
“My Sea Eagle RazorLite® weighs only 35 pounds,” says Garza, “and it packs-up nice and tight. It can also take a beating and keep on going. My girlfriend Xiomi and I took it close to the Guatemalan border recently and paddled over 400 kms (250 miles) down the Usumacinta River to the Gulf of Mexico. We needed the fastest two-person inflatable kayak in the world to travel such a distance in only five days and the RazorLite® was it. On the last day of the expedition, Xiomi and I had to paddle over 100 kms (70 miles) from Jonuta to Frontera City as there were no places to stay the night. I’m convinced the Sea Eagle 473rl is the only two-person IK in the world that can cover so long a distance in a single day.”
It would be almost impossible to do the expeditions he and his girlfriend undertake twice a month using a hard shell kayak, believes Garza. “The logistics would be too complicated, especially when you have to cross international borders. For us, it doesn’t make sense to waste the extra time, money and effort to travel with a hard shell. Many traditional kayakers don’t know about the latest IK technology. They don’t know how fast and how tough these kayaks can be, especially with drop-stitch design like Sea Eagle uses in its RazorLite®. Hopefully, my fellow kayakers are starting to see this when they view my adventures on social media or read the articles I write in magazines and Mexican newspapers.”
As for the RazorLite’s speed, Garza finds it exceptionally fast. “My girlfriend and I entered a 37 kms (23-mile) hard shell kayak race with it and finished third overall. We were the only IK in the race. The RazorLite’s sleekness is one reason for its great speed; another is that it is so steady and solid it feels like a hard-shell kayak. It’s as tough as they come, and very responsive. It lets you get in a lot of exercise without feeling like you are doing that much work.”
Garza says there are places in Mexico and Central America that can be reached only by kayak such as the lost archeological site Arrecife, which is hidden in a small islet in the north of Cozumel. The entire Champoton River, from its remote beginning to its terminus at the Gulf of Mexico, is another example. Here Garza had to backpack in to find the narrow creek which served as the river’s origin. (You can see a clip of this trip on JP’s Facebook page, here.)
“I push into places other people rarely see and I find that tremendously rewarding,” surmises Garza. “When you get into these places, you never know what you might see. Last winter Xiomi and I navigated in Expedition Gran Arrecife Maya, paddling more than 500 kms (310 miles) from Majahual, Mexico to Rio Dulce, Guatemala. Over 17 days we used our inflatable kayak to explore the second largest coral reef in the world. We saw amazing islets and breath-taking scenery. There were many kinds of wild animals here including sea turtles, dolphins, alligators, monkeys and a great diversity of fish.
“I think if more people kayaked, they might have a better appreciation for the environment and all things beautiful, peaceful and wild. That might help them to be more conservation-minded – and that’s something we really need in today’s world.”
At Sea Eagle, we couldn’t agree more.