New park in Shavano Park (De Zavala and Military)

We found a great little park that’s not even on the map yet! It’s always fun to know a local secret place to get outside.

The city of Shavano Park recently built a nice playground with that squishy rubber ground stuff, a huge pavilion you can reserve, and a short set of trails on the property. Plenty of parking, basically no one there, but the security of knowing your literally 200 feet from a police station with cameras all over the place ….so there’s far less weirdo’s over there than at O.P. Schnabel (ask a friend how to pronounce that one).

Just north of the corner of De Zavala and Military highway is the “Shavano Park Municipal Tract” – or a block of land about 20-something acres large. The police station and 911 call center is there,

After we picked up some Gino’s Deli down the road we picnicked at their pavilion – but fun fact – there’s almost no tables because they only get them out for you if you rent the thing. But there’s 5 or 6 nice wood picnic tables around and its all shaded by trees. Other fun fact – did you know Gino’s was #21 on  Yelp’s top 100 in the country? Gino’s philly steak sandwiches with their hot sauce are so good…

But this is about the park. I snapped some quick photos from my phone – take a peek.

GlowRow! An awesome lighted paddle tour in the Corpus, Port A and Port O’Conner area

“Hey all! Cici here down in Port Aransas – I got the pleasure of getting a sneak peak into – one of the newest and most interesting companies that I’ve come across. When I first heard it the first thing that came to mind was bioluminescent – and I was exactly… wrong.

I hadn’t heard of the Crystal Kayak tours in San Marcos, and totally missed this is a “lighted and guided” tour! What makes GlowRow so unique is their equipment. Their kayaks are completely transparent, and it’s lit up with LED lights which illuminate the water beneath you. I would compare it to snorkeling without getting wet.

The signup process was simple. Everything was self-explanatory on the website and the coolest thing was that the price came to $40 even per person. The folks at GlowRow said they are the only night time kayak tour company on the Texas coast that’s got the “okay” from Texas Parks and Wildlife and the US Coast Guard’s compliance rules.

The night started off with signing a waiver as most kayaks have in place, but they described it to use with some personality (like Southwest before the whole airline industry got stressed out…). After everyone arrived and checked in, the guide then started the safety briefing. I was not expecting to be laughing as much as I did from a kayak safety briefing. It was anything but dry.

The guide helped everyone board each boat and the group of us took off.  The boats are all tandem kayaks and they can take out up to 10 at a time.  Our group was fully booked, and the experience of everyone’s kayaks lighting up the water around us was simply spectacular.  The guide took us on a route where we had small bait fish LITERALLY jumping into our boats with us. Remember that scene in “Life of Pi?” Not quite like that – but still frightening yet exhilaratingly funny at the same time. I have never experience something so fun. 

The guide was entertaining to say the least, cracking silly jokes along the way, but more importantly he made me feel very safe. He knew the water, the obstructions and even caught a fish with his bare hands (then let it go – what are we going to do with a fish?). It was quite a sight, almost like the modern-day Crocodile Dundee. #classics

The tour covered roughly 1 mile and it was a fast hour and half.  Time flies when you’re having fun and oh man did we have fun. I am definitely going back.  After I looked further into the company, they have several different routes and I hope I get to go on each and every one of them.  

I forgot to mention that the company is 18+ and then 21+ BYOB on the boat only.  It is the perfect date night atmosphere; we left the kiddos at home and for the hour and half that we were out it was magical under the star’s small plastic bottle of wine in hand and simply living in the moment of the magic.  I couldn’t have had a more perfect night for someone like myself that loves the water.”

Brennen here – CiCi had a great time and I wanted to pass on the good vibes. So if you stop by there, tell them you heard about it from I don’t get anything from them for writing about them. I just think they are super cool, and hope wherever you go in Texas, that you can easily find great places to get outside and enjoy the outdoors!

So go check them out at

The best electric stand-up paddleboard (SUP) pump

Quick disclosure:
I own and use all the gear I recommend. Versatility and a great “quality-to-price” ratio tend to be the things I love the most. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

What is the best electric paddleboard (SUP) pump for you? It depends.

What matters to you most to you? Speed, Price, Versatility or Quality.

My goal is to give you a details, unbiased and clear review so you can make a good decision on what’s best for you without that feeling of regret or dealing with a product return.

I’ve owned about 7 or 8 different electric air pumps for my paddle board fleet over the years, and recently there are a few new pumps on the market that are getting a lot of attention.

I did a side-by-side comparison of three pumps that are a good representation of all the car-powered pumps available:

  1. A dual-stage “Shark II” pump by Outdoor Master
  2. A dual-stage pump by Serine Life that has at least 10 other private labels brands,
  3. An inexpensive single-stage pump.

Watch the video, or read the summary below

Speed, price and features matter.

These are the most-to-least important aspects when choosing a pump. Brand names don’t really matter much, as nearly all pumps have the exact same level of quality of the electronics and mechanics. Some brands have cooler logos or sleeker-designed shapes, but they all have the same ‘guts’ inside from the same factories in China. (Literally, they are all made in China. Email me if you find an American-made SUP pump.)

So what electric paddle board pump setup is best?

The best value pump is a generic brand, 20 PSI, dual-stage pump. It inflates in the shortest time of around 6 minutes – the same speed as the most expensive brand name pump – and has all the same bonus features except for a cooling fan but for just 2/3rds the price. With the price savings, I recommend getting a battery that will let you use the pump away from your car – keep reading for more about batteries.

Watch my detailed YouTube review at the top, or find my super simple Amazon shopping list here with all 3 pumps, seats, life-jackets and my other favorite SUP accessories below

click to see the full list

What about the built-in-battery rechargeable pumps?

… like the OutdoorMaster Whale and others? I recommend getting the best pump for you, then just buying a separate battery. A built-in battery is harder to deal with if the battery or pump have an issue, plus separate batteries are helpful other places. I’ve already found the best battery and adapter cord you need on my “favorite things” lists here:

Quick disclosure:
I own and use all the gear I recommend. Versatility and a great “quality-to-price” ratio tend to be the things I love the most.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
But I only recommend gear I own, use and actually like.

Best Inflatable paddle boards under $350 – Reviews of the “Good Enough” paddleboards

This is part 1 of a 3-part series of recommendations on Inflatable Stand-up Paddleboards by size and price

There are waaaaaay too many brands of inflatable paddle boards out there – over 100.

I’ve grouped them by Price & Size, and narrowed each group down to a few recommendations based on my experience as a paddler, and knowledge from designing and importing the Cypress Stand-up Paddle board.

I know price is the main thing for most people, but after that you’ll need to consider the size and features that are best for you. You’ll also need to be aware and accept that nearly all inflatable stand-up paddle boards sold in the USA are actually made in China. Lots of the non-inflatable, solid ones are made in the USA, but even most high-end inflatable SUP’s are made overseas. Because of the Trump-era 7 to 8% import tariffs and the higher cost of international shipping, all SUP prices will be higher for the foreseeable future.

So let’s get to it! Here’s how I’ve grouped the top 14 SUP’s by size and price. All the boards are 6″ thick – anything less is too poor quality to float an adult.

The Basics of Shopping for an Inflatable Stand-up Paddleboard

The “Good Enough” $250-350 paddleboards (Compare these to a Wal-Mart bike)

What makes these so cheap? Two things: (1) They use a THINNER PVC material. (2) They use LESS PVC or LESS EVA foam material. (3) They have few features such as lift handles at the front and back, D-rings for attaching accessories, and other things.

How that works: Think of a paddleboard’s outer PVC material like ply wood: some plywood is thicker & stronger than others, and you can overlap two pieces of plywood to make it extra strong. Likewise, Paddleboards are made of PVC material that comes in different thickness or weights (called “denier”) and can use 1, 2 or ever more layers of PVC material. Cheap boards use a thinner, lighter-weight PVC, which you can tell if the PVC is less than 1,000 “Denier” (Denier is a measure of thickness & weight similar to “thread count” in fabric). Inexpensive boards use one layer of PVC material to keep costs low. Most times, Cheap boards may advertise “multi-ply” instead of “multi-layers” of PVC material. That’s not special, as all PVC material used is “multi-ply” but not all paddle boards have multi-layers of PVC. Cheap SUP’s generally don’t advertise their “Denier” rating because they are under 1,000. At best, they come with some freebie extras like cheap $3 waterproof phone bags.

These are still great boards if…” If you or your young kids don’t care much about design or features, or you just need something simple for a short number of summer seasons, then these are still great boards to get the job done. A Wal-Mart bike still works fine, and is great to learn on.

Here are my recommended “Good enough” boards by size.

Quick disclosure: I personally own more expensive inflatable SUPs, but have seen or used they types of SUP’s I recommend here.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

10′ long x 30″ wide x 6″ thick:

GoPlus ($250)
This company is based in Asia, and is like the “Harbor Freight” of outdoor equipment. Bare bone, inexpensive and direct from the factory w/o any retailer to provide any meaningful customer support.

Serene Life ($340)
(lots of other colors to choose from)

Ancheer (under $400)

10.5′ long x 32″ wide x 6″ thick

FBS port ($290)
(comes in lots of colors)

11′ x 32″ boards

Aqua Plus – ($300)

PADRE PARK – kayak or paddle board the SAN ANTONIO RIVER along the riverwalk trail

Thought there was nowhere good to paddle inside the 410 loop? Think again. Padre Park is just 5 miles south of the Alamo, and one of the few places to paddle along the San Antonio river that I actually recommend.

Paddle boarding and Kayaking on the San Antonio River at Padre park

I love the fun kayak shoot at the dam, and people also like to fish on the down-river side. It’s easy to put in, has calm & level water, and a fun park for kids to play at.

But there are a few drawbacks. Let me explain:

Waterfront and Beach: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This one almost doesn’t apply to Padre Park – It does have nice concrete curb to put in above the dam and kayak shoot. But its not a “waterfront” in the traditional sense, and it’s not a “beach.” What it does have is a wonderful access to the miles and miles long San Antonio Riverwalk. Not the tourist trap “Riverwalk” but the real river walk that you can ride your bike along with the family.  

Paddle boarding and Kayaking on the San Antonio River at Padre park

Clean, Calm Water: 3.5 out of 5 stars

It’s calm, smooth water, great for beginners and kids, and great for paddling. It’s pretty natural river, so I do keep my eye open for the occasional boulder or log that may be shallow below the surface. But It’s not the kind of river property you love to swim in. Mostly because the bottom is super uneven with boulders sporadically that make me nervous as a swimmer. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not filled with flesh-eating bacteria or algae plums, but it’s a park and river stretch designed for paddling, not for swimming access. And I’m sure with it being as slow moving as it is, that it does have it’s days where there are a lot of leaves or pollen chilling along the side.

Parking: 3 stars out of 5

Here’s my dilemma – I’m lazy, but I like to paddle. I want the parking to be as close to the river as possible.

At Padre Park, the easy, spacious parking lot is right by the playground, but a solid 150-foot walk down the hill to the waterfront. You’re going to carry whatever you paddle for a bit. If the parking were closer, it might get a 4.5 star rating. Only places like Louise-Hays park in Kerrville get 5’s. Covered, waterfront parking… incredible!

I unload in the parking lot then hoofed my paddle board to the top of the small dam & water shoot to put in. I bet on a major holiday week that you’ll need to stop near the playground to unload, then go park farther away.

Padre Park riverfront by the San Antonio Riverwalk south of the Alamo

Picnic and day-use area: 3.5 out of 5

It’s a solid park – play area, covered pavilion, grass, charcoal pit, grassy hill. Probably some ants around, so not a bare-foot ‘grassy knoll’. It’s not a huge play and picnic area though,

Overall – 3.5 out of 5

Decent all-around place, one of the better places near downtown to paddle board as well as kayak, and right by Mission San Jose if you want to add some variety to your trip.

The stretch of river isn’t much longer than a mile before the next dam and spillway, so it’s not an all-afternoon paddle trail.

 If you’re coming from Stone Oak, The Woodlands in Houston, or Dallas, then you’ll probably not think highly of the surrounding neighborhoods. But my recommendation is relax and enjoy – you came for Padre Park, the San Antonio River and Riverwalk.

Boerne Lake – the best lake to paddle near San Antonio?

Looking for a lake with swimming, picnic areas, plenty of parking, kayaking and more? What if you wanted to stay within a short 20-30 minute drive north of The Rim or La Cantera mall in north San Antonio?

You’re probably looking for Boerne Lake at Boerne City Lake Park. And you’d be happy if you found it, too – it’s my standard “go-to” for a close place to get on the water, and my favorite “close-to-home” option in the off-season.

Here’s why:

Waterfront and Beach: 4 out of 5 stars

There’s a wide, well-kept boat ramp to put in whatever you’re going to paddle, as well as a great dock for fishing or enjoying the frequent and fantastic sunsets. There’s 2 or 3 good but smaller beaches along the lakefront of the park that comfortably accommodate a few groups each.

The best beaches are highlighted in Green.
The boat ramp and fishing pier area is in Yellow.

Clean, Calm Water: 4 out of 5 stars

Why not a 5? Isn’t is a common place for open-water swimmers training for triathlons?

I reserve the ‘5 stars’ for that crystal clear water you’ll find few places such as the San Marco’s river – but Boerne Lake is calm (no motor boats allowed there) and a clean place to swim without wondering about weird bacteria or algae… looking at you, Austin and Galveston.

Boerne Lake can get windy, especially in the fall and winter, and I’ve seen more than one kayaker have to get more of a workout then they bargained for. When I stand-up paddle board there, I prefer to go on days when it’s not windy.

Photo Credit: Isabell Marie Deal Photography

Parking: 5 stars out of 5

You can unload or launch at the lake edge, or park alongside any of the day-use areas. I love how you can park along the road as well as the different parking lots along the way. On busy holidays or weekends when everyone wants to be at the lake at the same time, the parking can spill back into their overflow, but I’ve never heard of it running out of parking.

After you come through the gate you can go left to the boat-ramp side + 70% of the beach area, or go right and hit the rest of the park.

Picnic and day-use area: 4 out of 5

This is a hard one – I  bounce between 3.5 and 4 stars.

Sometimes I wish more of the day-use areas has better “playable beach” access. But the truth is the picnic and play areas are really well laid out and maintained as the city balances keeping all the natural old oak trees for shade.

I love how much shade this park has on the lake-side of the road, I love how close the parking is, and I love how they have good picnic tables, some pavilions and basic amenities. It’s a great park that serves the city of Boerne well.

Its success is also its biggest problem – Boerne City Lake Park is in a small town (population 20,000-ish) just 20 miles north of San Antonio (population 1-million-too-many). So to prevent the fun, medium-size park from being overrun on those wonderful April and September weekends, they do have a toll-booth operating during certain months or weekends of the year. I think it’s worth it to pay $15 and enjoy my time, but that’s not realistic for everyone’s budget or may not feel worth if it if you just want to swing by for an hour. On occasion then will have a person from the city parks dept (Leslie Knope?) make sure boaters have life jackets and not using motors and such.

Check their website for current hours and if there is a fee (generally on the weekends between Memorial day and Labor day)

Official city park page for updates on hours, potential entrance fee’s, etc

Boerne Lake Facebook Page for updates on weather, crowd level, etc.

MOMUMENTAL PERSONAL ACHIEVEMENT – I am a terrible fisherman but even I have caught a fish from the pier here.

Overall – 4 out of 5

If you want to kayak, paddle board, do some kayak fishing or pier fishing, it’s a wonderful place. It’s you want to spend the day with friends and family, kids or adults, it’s also a great place for that, too!