Woman Covers 425Km on Standup Paddleboard in Texas Race

For the first time in the race’s history, a solo female paddler finished the 425km (264-mile) Texas Water Safari on a standup paddleboard.

Veronica Sosa, a 54-year-old massage therapist from Austin, glided to the finish in 97 hours and 14 minutes, less than three hours before the cutoff time. The last official finisher, she arrived with battered knees and blistered hands.

It marked Sosa’s seventh Safari finish but her first attempt on a paddleboard instead of a canoe. Because there is no separate division for paddleboards in the race, which follows the San Marcos and Guadalupe rivers on their way from Central Texas to the Gulf of Mexico, she entered the women’s solo unlimited division. She says her 2019 solo canoe finish gave her the confidence to try.

“I thought, ‘If I can get an 18.5-foot canoe without a rudder down the river, surely I can get a 14-foot standup paddleboard down the river,” she said.

woman SUP'ing on river

Veronica Sosa paddles the Gonzales River in Gonzales, Texas, while competing in the 2024 Texas Water Safari. Photo: Ashley Landis/Texas Water Safari

From mosquitoes to alligators

Despite extreme heat, rapids, logjams, mosquitoes, mud, alligators, and exhaustion, she did. Sosa switched between standing, kneeling, and sitting, and brought two paddles –- a long one and a short one. She lost the short one en route. Long stretches with little to no current posed the biggest challenge, she said.

“Your mind has to be in it and has to be committed because if it’s not, you’re not going anywhere. It took a lot more will this time than I’ve ever had to muster,” she said.

But when she reached the bay, which she had to cross to reach the finish, she got a rare reward – what’s often a choppy, wind-blown mess had calmed to glass.

“I want this to be about every woman who feels that she can’t do it or that feels impossible,” said Sosa, who has four children and two grandchildren.

woman wipes her face

Veronica Sosa. Photo: Ashley Landis/Texas Water Safari

Shane Perrin of St. Louis, Mo., was the first person to race the Safari on a standup paddleboard in 2012, with a time of 90 hours and 54 minutes.

Of the 159 teams that entered this year’s race, which started June 8, 109 finished –- more than the last two years, according to race director Allen Spelce, who called Sosa’s accomplishment significant.

“In general, the female racing community has gotten bigger and stronger every year,” Spelce said.

Pam LeBlanc

Pam LeBlanc is an Austin, Texas-based journalist who writes about outdoor adventure and environmental issues for numerous publications. Learn more at www.pamleblancadventures.com.