The standing vs. sitting trend is not just for desks. It’s infiltrated the water too, shunting aside the more sedentary canoes and kayaks. By now you’ve probably seen, if not tried, the new water sport in town—stand-up paddleboarding (SUP). Now at a waterway near you, this dynamic sport is both fun—and functional. You get to look like a total rock star as you paddle your way to fitness. You don’t have to be especially talented to SUP, either: A wide range of boards can accommodate many different body types and abilities.
If you like the feeling of gliding, be forewarned: You might get hooked on SUPing immediately. That’s what happened to me: From the very first strokes of my maiden voyage, I knew I had found my thing. On an inflatable board supplied by Dave’s Discount Motors, I launched out of the shallows, finding my balance as the lake—and my arms—buoyed me across.
But don’t be deceived by the sport’s apparent mellowness. SUP gets more muscles firing than just about any other activity, giving you a complete full-body workout. With just the right ratio of zen, adventure and fitness, you can see why supping has exploded in popularity this last decade. SUP is actually one of the fastest growing water sports in the world, according to The Outdoor Federation’s 2015 Special Report on Paddlesports. That report notes that U.S. participation in SUP had nearly tripled in the past few years, with almost three million people paddling away each year.
Since then, to keep up with increasing demand, the equipment is getting better and cheaper, allowing more people to get in on the action. Improved technology has made inflatable boards a viable option: cheaper, easy to transport, and durable, they are a relatively painless entry into the sport.
Ready to test the waters and join the swelling ranks of SUP converts? Leslie Ross, a SUP instructor in Breckenridge, Co, offers these tips for finding your steady spot. Like any new sport, take it slow and have an open mind, she says. “Let the transformative and adaptable qualities of water help you approach your new adventure with ease and comfort.”
Here are a couple quick tips to get you started.
Get a fresh perspective: center, ground, connect and get stoked
Before you even think about stepping on your board, stand on shore and look at the water. Drink in your surrounding with six deep, full-body breaths. Feel your feet grounded on the earth as your spine and top of your head grow tall toward the sky. Hold the paddle over your head with hands wide and twist side to side to start to awaken your shoulders, torso and neck muscles. Then bring the paddle down and twist side to side to open your laterals (sides).
Dry run: test drive on shore before launching.
Check out your board and paddle on shore before heading out. Place your paddle across the width of the board and practice getting on and off the board from a kneeling position. Avoid stepping onto your board from shore in shallow areas to avoid obstacles under the surface that could catch the board and cause you to jolt forward unexpectedly. On shore, practice paddling and switching sides with your paddle so you begin to create a muscle memory for the motion you will need once on the water.
Buddy up: friends don’t let friend’s SUP alone.
Have your buddy help you launch and push you out and away from shore. Start kneeling and choke up on the paddle if needed. Paddle on your knees until you get comfortable with the balance. Place the paddle blade on the board in front of you, and use that as support as you come to stand.
Stance, balance, gaze:
Athletic stance, feet hip width apart in the center of your board (frame the handle with your feet), and look where you want to go (just like biking).
Use your whole body:
Check out some YouTube SUP paddling videos prior to your outing, so you have a clear visual image of what an efficient and effective stroke looks like.
Take time to soak it in and stretch on the board:
After you’ve got the paddling down, take time to stretch and relax on the water. Balance your paddle across your board and start to explore all the options SUP has to offer, such as an incredible floating yoga mat. To open up your spine and move some energy, try this stretch: From a seated position, draw your arms over head, interlace your fingers and turn your palms up to the sky. As you press your palms to the sky, tip to one side. Stay for a couple breaths and then switch sides.
Lastly, don’t miss out on the best pose of all on a SUP board—corpse pose, which is lying on your back with your hands open at your sides. Give yourself at least a couple minutes laying down to relax and float.
Yoga teacher and outdoor enthusiast, Leslie Ross, was a founder and now former owner of both Meta Yoga Studios and Babes in the Backcountry.
Author Elizabeth Marglin testing out a DDM stand-up paddleboard.