Saddle to the Paddle

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Saddle to the Paddle


When you meet someone like Tony Schaefer, who has brought the sport of paddle boarding into his lifestyle, the positive influence is very evident. For most of his life, Tony Schaefer was a horseman in his home state of New Mexico, and trail riding in the desert, long pack trips and journeys into the great Gila Wilderness were his passion. After losing his beloved and best saddle horse, he moved to Puerto Aventuras, Mexico and there he paddled a SUP for the first time. Four years later, his new passion for long distance paddling along the Riviera Maya coast provides him with new adventures.

For Schaefer the transition was natural. “Riding through the mesquite brush of the mesas of New Mexico was a Zen like experience, said Schaefer. The expansive scenery, the pace and gait of the horse, the terrain was a meditation. But, in paddling, on my board alone on the seas, I gained a new perspective. I’ll always miss riding, but paddling is now my life.”

Schaefer is also a dedicated advocate for the environment. He served as the Chairman of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission and authored the state’s first Renewable Power Portfolio Standard rules. Today, he works to raise awareness for the preservation of his local water around Bahia Fatima and the entire coastal marine ecosystem. It is part of his inspiration for paddling.

“I spend most of my time in and on the waters of the Riviera Maya, and I see so much from the vantage point of my board and while swimming. Although our waters are relatively pristine, it is easy to see the effects of humans upon the reefs and along the shore, just like it was easy to see trash in the wilderness, explained Schaefer. I see not just the effects of global warming but also global trashing and litter. Because I love my sport and depend upon the sea, I advocate for the health of the water and the creatures who live in it.”

Fitness is also a major benefit of his passion for paddling. “At 67, I value every day and strive to appreciate every moment. Paddling gives me a release for my energy and a purpose for my being. The feeling of expending my energy on the waves, in the current, wind in my hair and at one with the moment…it is the essence of Zen for me. The fact that I have never been more fit in my life is a bonus too!”


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