Stand Up Paddle boarding, or SUPing, is the fastest growing water sport in the country. Just paddling a stand up board is a good form of exercise that works many muscles including your core, but if you love the feeling of being on your board and want to add balance and agility to your workout, there are other options. Exercise practitioners are embracing yoga, pilates and strength training while on their paddleboard.
Stand up paddle boarding activities have evolved from their traditional Polynesian roots. The act of paddle boarding requires that you have a reasonable (but not exorbitant) amount of balance and agility to remain standing on the oversize surfboard type board as you make your way through the water or ride a wave, all while using a paddle for propulsion and balance.
If you take that same board and get into some calm flat water such as a lake, cove, river or even a pool, you now have a great platform or “floating mat” on which to perform a workout. It not only takes exercise to a new level of intensity but also contributes to a sense of well-being.
The popularity of SUP exercise and SUP yoga in particular can be attributed to several factors, according to Jessica Cichra, the founder and owner of Wave of Wellness in Orlando, Fla.: It is a great way to get out on the water, there is not a huge investment required, and the boards are light and easy to transport.
She says people from all fitness and experience levels can be successful in their exercise with help from a good instructor. The only requirement is that you can swim. She also points out that it can be an extremely pleasurable way of working out and does not have all the common hang-ups of going to a gym. Participants are usually in a peaceful water setting and the workout ends up feeling more like fun than a boring regime.
“It’s a lifestyle,” Jessica says, not just an exercise. The only requirements to participate are confidence and a willingness to fall into the water. If you don’t have either of those, she says, then it’s not for you. “I know you are really trying and pushing yourself if you fall off the board,” she adds.
Her classes, as most yoga classes, are a place where everyone is encouraged to push himself or herself and not judge others. Jennifer got started teaching SUP yoga classes in pools at high-end hotels and resorts in the Orlando area after experiencing stand-up paddle boarding for herself.
You can find SUP yoga classes and groups in many wellness programs. Participants are varied, with the majority being women between the ages of 20 and 50 according to Jessica, although she has clients that range from a 75-year-old lady to kids working out with their family, and male customers of all ages.
If yoga is not your thing, there’s always paddleboard racing and SUP Pilates.
Racing has become very popular with competitive fitness participants. Organized races are popping up everywhere. Organized series are usually timed, allowing racers to measure their progress and provide a competitive environment that still has a great deal of camaraderie on the water.
If competition isn’t your thing then you might want to try paddleboard Pilates. Cindi Bear Bonner, founder of Fitness Onboard in Pensacola Beach, Fla., tried the new version of floating resistance training where Pilates bands are used in an exercise routine while balancing on a SUP. As with SUP yoga, the elements of balance and agility are enhanced while trying to exercise on a board that is just over 11 feet long and 32 inches wide.
Bonner fell in love with this form of exercise and founded a company offering paddleboard exercise programs at Margaritaville Resort on Pensacola Beach. The success of these classes has taken off and she is looking to expand her business. After two years of using standard yoga boards, Cindi invented her Fitness Onboard Paddle Board or FO-SUP.
Although there are many manufacturers making purpose-built boards for SUP yoga, Cindi has a unique board for fitness resistance training that is manufactured for her company by Dragonfly Boat Works. At first glance it looks like a regular SUP yoga board, but a closer look reveals specially placed tie down points where standard Pilates resistance bands can be attached depending on the particular exercise, allowing for a limitless amount of resistance exercise possibilities.
A paddle clip to hold the paddle in place, water bottle holders, a built-in anchor system and a storage compartment for keys and ID make these the ultimate in Pilates boards.
Cindi believes that this kind of exercise its good for everyone. There is no impact where you are pounding on joints and it is perceived as a fun form of exercise that can be a bit faster paced than SUP yoga.
“You’re outside enjoying the beautiful environment and once you get it you’ve got it,” she says. “It’s easy. It is changing lifestyles.”
Cindi says people who would not go to a gym on a regular basis are getting on the water and changing their life for the better. “From an exercise physiologist point of view, I see nothing negative about exercising on the water. It’s not only physically good for you but it is also mentally good for you.”