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Giant paddleboard hits area lakes

SUPzilla, an outsize stand-up paddle board, packs on passengers for team-building events

Pam LeBlanc
Baazarvoice employees paddle along Lake Austin on Austin Paddle Sports' massive stand-up paddle board on Tuesday.

Just when you thought it was safe to venture into our area lakes, SUPzilla shows up.

The monster-sized stand-up paddle board can carry several dozen passengers, who use long paddles to propel their way around the lake on the overgrown surfboard.

Earlier this year, a whopping 33 people crowded onto the board for a cruise around Quarry Lake.

"It was crazy crowded," said Andy Lukei, owner of Austin Paddle Sports, which rents out the 28-foot-by-8-foot board. "The thing looked like a caterpillar."

SUPzilla also has made appearances on Lady Bird Lake and Lake Austin.

It's used mainly for corporate events and team building, and it rents for $100 an hour, including an instructor to manage the chaos.

Things sometimes get a bit wobbly as passengers file on board, but it beats a ropes course any day. For one thing, if you fall, you get to take a dip in the lake. (Personal flotation devices provided.)

"It's like a big waterbed," Lukei said. "It takes the first 10 or 15 minutes to acclimate and get used to the shifting of weight. People flop in all the time."

Once, a rogue wave from a passing wakeboard boat took out everyone at once.

Which doesn't sound like such a bad thing when you're staring a 100-degree day in the face.

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Stop stinging sweat

If you've ever gone for a run on a hot Austin day, you know the misery of sweat in your eyes.

That salty sting inspired Austin runner Katie Niemeyer to develop the Handana, a sweat-swabber worn like a fingerless glove.

Niemeyer, 40, a nurse and mother of two, came up with the idea while training for her first marathon in Austin last year. Her eyes are extra sensitive because as a teenager she suffered from Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, an autoimmune reaction that causes the skin to burn. She survived, but was left with scarring and sensitivity in her eyes.

"As a runner, if sweat drips into my eyes, it burns and makes it hard for me to keep running," she says.

Determined to keep going, she wrapped a washcloth around her hand and used it to wipe sweat. That evolved into the Handana, which comes in 16 colors and is made of a combination of Lycra and Supplex.

"Once you get used to having it, wiping with a T-shirt is not enough," she says. "It wicks away moisture and dries quicker than cotton."

The Handana comes in six sizes (including a kid version), sells for $15 and is available at C'est Chic!, 5800 W. Slaughter Lane, or online at Tyler's has plans to carry it, too. For more information go to

Hoof it and hook 'em

City Running Tours is adding a 5-kilometer foot-powered jaunt through the University of Texas campus to its lineup of guided group runs.

The tour is geared toward visitors — specifically, prospective UT students hoping for an unofficial, sometimes humorous tour of the Forty Acres — but even locals can bone up on their history while getting in some exercise.

The route swings past the UT Tower, the McCombs School of Business, Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, the LBJ Presidential Library and the Victorian-era Littlefield property.

"When I went to college, I got led around on a 15-minute tour that completely bored me," said Lee Ackerley, manager of the Austin branch of City Running Tours. Not so, this. "You and your family can get out and do it together, and it's a little more active."

The UT tour, which lasts just less than an hour, costs $25 and includes a bottle of water. It's offered at 9 a.m. every Sunday. Register in advance at and meet on the south side of the UT Tower.

The company also offers a 5K tour of downtown ($25), a 10K scenic parks tour ($40) and a specialty 5K beer tour ($30), which includes stops at local pubs to sample adult beverages. Those runs all start at the Texas Running Company, 1011 W. Fifth St.

Austin's not the only place you can take a guided running tour. City Running Tours also offers tours in Boston, Charleston, Chicago, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington. And don't worry if you're a slow runner. Tours are adapted to any pace or athletic ability.

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Contact Pam LeBlanc at 445-3400. Twitter:@fitcityleblanc