Step aside kayaks and canoes! There is a new aquatic sheriff in town: the stand up paddleboard (known as “SUP” for short). Fit Hollywood starlets like Jennifer Aniston, Cameron Diaz and Kate Hudson are all fans of the low-impact, cross-training sport and thanks to a recent excursion through Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), we are, too!
REI was founded on a mission to inspire, educate and equip outdoorsy types for adventuring and stewardship. Besides selling quality gear to fitness enthusiasts like ourselves, the company provides instruction and skills to tens of thousands of participants a year with its education program, the REI Outdoor School. Small classes, with courses ranging from an hour to two days, introduce skills in navigation, cycling, wilderness first aid and more!
We learned all about SUPing on our Liberty State Park trip, which included breathtaking views of the city skyline and Lady Liberty, herself. Rough day at the office, we know. Here are five tips we gathered from our awesome instructors:
- SUPing safety: Wearing a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) is a must when on the water. Not only will it keep you afloat, it also helps with visibility and carrying small items, like an emergency whistle. Make sure to store any personal gear in waterproof baggies or cases. Unfortunately one fellow paddler dropped and lost her iPhone while on our excursion!
- Keep it on a tight leash: To avoid having to chase—or stroke—down your board if you fall, attach a leash to your ankle. Don’t worry, you’ll forget it’s even there. If you do take a plunge, aim yourself back flop-style, to either side of the board.
- Defense paddling: Be aware of your surroundings, hazards and the elements to avoid injury—especially in areas with boating channels or fisherman. Wear proper clothing for the conditions and footwear (we wore these) to protect your little piggies from anything dangerous on land or hidden in the murky waters below. Also, don’t forget to lather up with SPF!
- Stance and stroke: In an athletic position with bent knees, keep your feet parallel about hip-width apart and toes pointed forward. Center yourself between the board’s edges. If paddling on the right, your right hand should be lower on the paddle shaft while your left grips the top. Reverse hand positions when you switch sides. Both arms should remain straight, allowing your torso to twist as you paddle. Talk about core strengthening and a total body workout! Phew!
- Turning 101: The easiest turning method is known as a “sidestroke.” Simply paddle on the left to turn right and visa versa. You can also reverse direction by dragging the paddle backwards on either side, referred to as a “backpaddle.”
REI offers in-store and field Outdoor School programs in 13 metropolitan markets, as well as programming, stewardship projects and recreational events in all 123 stores. For more information, check out their website at rei.com/outdoorschool.
My Christmas cards finally went out, complete with a list of 11 things I learned in 2011. Among the lessons? “Sometimes you have to peel shrimp before you eat them. —Dewey Destin’s, Emerald Coast, Florida”
(I also learned Yoloboarding in Florida, but I wanted to keep my destinations diversified!)
My point: As the year wraps up, we can’t help but think about the memories we made in the past twelve months and the trips we took. Our Fit Stop readers have heard about staff adventures like Karla’s in Colorado and Marla’s in Mexico, and I’m going to throw another log on the inspiration fire: When you’re thinking about your affordable options in 2012 and looking to get a little sand in your soul and in between your toes, I’d head toward the “Emerald Coast” (Destin area) in Florida. Because I like lists, here’s why:
*It’s where YOLO/paddle boarding really took off! You can rent a board for $20 from lifeguards and don’t need any special lessons. I scored mine right outside the Inn at Crystal Beach, which is where I was lucky enough to stay.
*Locals call it the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.” I had absolutely no idea what I was doing and just look!
*There are a lot of family-friendly things to do, like parasailing, jet-skiing, the “Gulfarium” (sooo fun!), dolphin watching, and more!
*There are grown-up things to do, too: golfing, wine and cheese cruises, and even the top level of AJ’s Seafood & Oyster Bar turns into quite the party later at night!
For more on the Emerald Coast, visit emeraldcoastfl.com or check out this cool video.
Alright, so living in New York City doesn’t exactly permit me to paddleboard any old day of the week. However, I recently got the chance to tour Hawaii’s Big Island courtesy of the Hilton Waikoloa Village resort, where I took the opportunity to learn how to paddleboard in their gorgeous, ocean-fed lagoon.
If you’re not familiar with stand-up paddleboarding, it’s exactly how it sounds: standing up on a surfboard while using a paddle to propel you through the water. Our guides from Hawaii Ocean Sports started our group off in the resort’s protected lagoon, which allowed us to get the hang of balancing on the board without the added challenge of the ocean waves. I was surprised to find myself engaging muscles I hadn’t used in awhile (hey there, lower calves!) and getting a pretty great ab workout as I used my core to stay upright.
When standing up on the board, your upper body does most of the work to pull you through the water. But once we started to make our way toward the open ocean, our guide instructed us to drop to our knees (first to duck under a low bridge, second to avoid falling into shallow, rocky water). On my knees it was a whole new workout — though I no longer needed to work as hard to stay on the board, being low to the water required lots of ab strength to pull my big paddle through the water.
This was, by far, the most fun workout I had in Hawaii (and I tried Aqua Zumba! More on that later…). It was amazing to be so mobile in the water, as opposed to simply riding waves back to shore on a traditional surfboard. And, as you can see in the photo above, the scenery was unstoppable. I paddled past sea turtles and got up close to fish of every color imaginable — which sure beats my usual view from the treadmill!