Rural Missouri - August 2021 - 25
by Savanna Kaiser |
he sun is drifting toward the western horizon,
leaving in its wake a vibrant sky of pink and red
over Springfi eld. The frogs have begun their evening
song. A warm breeze stirs the river's current.
T.J. Holman lives for moments like these - quiet sunset
paddles on a perfect summer night in the Ozarks.
Born on the Mississippi, T.J. says the river runs in his
blood. He'd always dreamed of trying stand-up paddleboarding,
also known as SUP, but never expected it to
change his life the way it has.
After losing his mom to a brain aneurysm in 2015, and
consequently his job at her company, T.J. struggled with
health issues and gained weight. His friend, Shane, who
owns SUP St. Louis, offered to build him a board that
would support his 425 pounds.
" I'd never paddleboarded a day in my life, but I caught
the bug. I took that board home, got up the next morning
and was on it all day, six days a week, to the point where
my wife asked if I was ever going to come home, " he says
with a laugh.
The more T.J. did it, the better he felt. By the following
year, he had lost 125 pounds and joined Shane on a
six-man board - the fi rst of its kind - for the MR340, an
annual race from Kansas City to St. Louis on the Missouri
River. From solo paddlers to 40-foot long boats that carry
12 to 14 paddlers, the race draws hundreds of
participants, including Olympians and professional
canoe and kayak racers. " We're talking
340 miles in 88 hours, " T.J. says. " It's an insane
event to be a part of, and that race is what fueled
me to want to teach people to do this. "
In 2018, T.J. and his wife, Nicole, started Show
Me SUP in Springfi eld with 10 stand-up paddleboards.
His fl eet includes hardboards and infl
atables. " They're all extremely tough, made of the
same PVC material that whitewater rafts are made of, " he
says. An average board measures roughly 11 feet long by
33 inches wide and holds up to 420 pounds. His personal
board is even larger and can haul gear and fi shing racks,
which is perfect for a several mile fl oat down the Finley
River, James River or Lake Springfi eld.
ter receiving hundreds of calls from people asking if they
rented canoes, T.J. sought out old, dilapidated canoes and
brought them back to life. With their odd paint jobs and
unique shapes such as a nearly square canoe, you're in for
a hilarious, unforgettable fl oat every time. " It's the same
principle, you get in a canoe and paddle, but why not do it
in something different and obnoxious, " T.J. says.
From April through October, people can rent T.J.'s
unique canoes and boards for an unforgettable fl oat.
It's his goal to get people out of the groove of a normal
fl oat trip and encourage them to try something different.
" Standing up offers you an entirely different view of the
water. There are so many colors and so many fi sh you
wouldn't see otherwise, " T.J. says. " And all those sections
where your friends in canoes and kayaks are dragging over
the rocks, you can fl oat right over it on your paddleboard
and wave at your buddies as you pass them by. "
There is a learning curve to SUP, T.J. admits. " Prepare
But the Holmans didn't stop with paddleboards. Afto
fall in some at fi rst. That's just the nature of the beast, "
he says. But after the fi rst 30 minutes or so learning to
balance and stretching your muscles, T.J. says the fun really
" With a board, you can easily drop to your knees if you
come up on some little rapids, " he adds. " You're way more
stable on your knees than you are in a canoe or kayak. "
T.J. has seen a wide age group participate in the activity,
from babies on boards with their parents to people in
their 90s. A few years ago, he let some family friends use
his personal board with their son, who is in a wheelchair.
They put the boy in a camping chair, alongside his family,
and gave him an extra-long paddle. " The boy was out on
the water for hours and grinning from ear to ear, " says T.J.
That's what his mission with Show Me SUP is all about.
" My handicap was being overweight. For that boy, it was
a wheelchair. I don't care what your physical ability is, I
can get you on a paddleboard, " says T.J. " It may be a 15foot
long, 5-foot wide paddleboard, but we'll make it work
for you. While most other companies focus primarily on
average-sized people, we're able to accommodate largersized
people, too. "
He loves for people to make the experience their own.
Some bring their dogs along. Others who once struggled to
stand up are now off participating in races, he says. " Or if
you just want to come out and sit, you can do that, " T.J.
says. " I like to teach people to stand up, but if you're coming
down for a sunset paddle and you're just wanting
to get away from the kids, or your house, or you've
had a stressful day and you just need to relax, it's a
fl oating chaise lounge, if you want it to be. "
Throughout the year, beyond his regular rentals
and lessons, he offers themed fl oat trips.
They have yoga fl oats, which are led by a
former trick rider for Dolly Parton's Stampede.
They also regularly do sunset paddles, battle
paddles and one called Tie Dyes and Tutus.
Being a mobile outfi tter gives him a great deal of
als and lessons, he offers themed fl oat trips.
fl exibility and allows him to visit various rivers around the
Springfi eld area.
" It wasn't until around 2010 that people started seeing
paddleboards around here. The idea of paddleboarding
really migrated from places like Hawaii and California, " he
says. " In other areas like Texas or Florida, people paddleboard
on all the waterways. They use them to go to town
and get groceries. All those waterways are like roads to
For T.J., stand-up paddleboarding truly changed his
life. He named his own personal board " Makuahhine, "
which means " mother " in Hawaiian, to honor his mom and
the journey of the last few years. " Plus, my board is the
mother of all paddleboards, " he says with a laugh.
T.J. is convinced that getting away and unplugging for a
few days on the water is medicine for the soul. Despite his
losses and challenges in the recent years, T.J. isn't looking
back. " I'm just paddleboarding across the state of Missouri
and loving it. "
To learn more about Show Me SUP visit www.
showmesup.com, fi nd them on Facebook at www.facebook.
com/ShowMeSUP or call T.J. at 417-521-4421.
Kaiser is a freelance writer from Hartville.
AUGUST 2021 | RURALMISSOURI.COOP 25
Rural Missouri - August 2021
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