Supping Chile Lacy-style

The world of whitewater stand-up paddleboarding crossed international borders to Chile in a big way last winter, with sup evangelist Spencer Lacy receiving a standing ovation for his stand-up efforts. In a three-and-a-half-week river rampage, Ambassador Lacy, with gullible, I’ll-follow-you-anywhere cohort Lance Ostrom, exposed whitewater supping to the historically kayak-crazed country, notching five first sup descents in the process...

“I’d heard about how great the whitewater paddling is there forever,” says Lacy, a longtime whitewater kayaker and regular podium finisher in U.S. sup events. “So supping there seemed natural. Whitewater supping is pretty unheard of there, and I love showing people the sport.”

Still, they didn’t exactly get a welcome mat when they first arrived. “Some people had heard of it and were intrigued, but others were completely baffled and thought we were going die,” admits Ostrom, whose Baptism by fire training involved supping the Grand Canyon with Lacy six months earlier.

Paddling a 9’5” inflatable Bad Fish River Shred, stop number one was the whitewater hotbed of Pucon, where the duo befriended a trio of French kayakers who let them ride along in their truck. Their first paddle saw them tackle a local run called the Rio Trancura. The two styled the Class III lower section, silencing onlookers, before running the Class IV-V upper portion. “It was a little rocky and Lance got a little beat up, but I did it pretty clean,” says Lacy, who walked the two Class Vs.

Next up was the Palguin, what he deems “a creek with a bunch of pool-drop waterfalls in the middle of a jungle.” Again, he drew stares from locals before styling it. “A lot of the kayakers were super skeptical at first,” he says. “But then they saw us do pretty well.”

The San Pedro, known as the “Futaleafu of the North,” came next, whose Grand Canyon-style rapids upped the push factor. They followed this with a first sup descent of the Truful Truful, a Class III creek run with two Class Vs they portaged.

A dufus move then nearly ended their trip. While towing his sup behind his one-board (which also raised eyebrows), Lacy ripped a hole in it and spent a day patching it before hopping on the ferry to his ultimate quest: the big-water, Class IV-V Futaleafu, one of the country’s biggest badges of courage. Again, gaining the locals’ acceptance was difficult. “I asked around if I could tag along on outfitters’ trips and was met with a wall of skepticism,” Lacy says. “Everyone said I was going to drown.”

Finally, a Chilean raft guide succumbed and said they could run safety. Notching a quintessential sup first, Lacy ran the high water, Class III-IV Bridge to Bridge section on the Lower Futaleafu, its main commercial run, with three safety catarafts, making it through such Class IVs as Entrada, Pillow, Cara del Indio and Class V-minus Mundaca.

“I would’ve gotten absolutely destroyed in there,” says Ostrom, who rode along in one of the catarafts. “But he nailed it. It was the best I’ve ever seen him paddle.”

Even Lacy was proud of this final feather in his helmet. “I did pretty well—I only fell off three or four times,” he says. “I had extra motivation because of everyone’s skepticism. It was some of the most beautiful and amazing paddling I’ve ever done—probably one of the best river days of my entire life.”









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