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water sports

Hanging Ten with REI

Written on September 27, 2012 at 9:06 am , by

Paddles up! Posing with fellow paddlers in the Hudson River. (Photo courtesy of REI.)

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:

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. 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!
  5. 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.

Check One Off the Bucket List: Surfing in Hawaii!

Written on July 26, 2011 at 10:01 am , by

The waves don't look big, but they felt it! Check out my cute Oakley board shirt too—that was a must-have. (Photo courtesy of 83 East Video Productions)

A few weeks ago I hit the waves on the beautiful island of O’ahu Hawaii, right off the famous Waikiki beach strip. In our July/August issue of the magazine I mentioned that surfing was a bucket list dream of mine, and something that I honestly never thought I’d do (just like our digital director Christie!), but the opportunity arose and I had to do this if I was going to be in Hawaii.

For me, taking the first step and signing up for surf lessons was the most difficult part. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m terrified of sharks—my imagination runs wild when I’m in any type of body of water and I swear I can see those fins all around me (how I ever did two Olympic-distance triathlons in open water is beyond me, but when my competitive bug gets going, nothing stops me). And I was psyched when I met my instructors at the Ty Gurney Surf School (look them up, they’re famous for their surfing dog Gracie—yep she really does surf!). Our instructors, Mike and Matt, had that amazing easygoing surfer vibe and the gave me and my husband, Dino, each one-on-one demonstrations. We found out all that we need to know to surf, which surprisingly wasn’t really all that much! The instructions are pretty simple, it’s practice that makes perfect in this sport.

Dino and I riding the wave together! (Photo courtesy of 83 East Video Productions)

My nerves starting acting up, however, when I saw how far out into the ocean we’d be going to catch those waves. Had the water not been shallow, I probably would have ran from the scene! But my instructor was by my side the entire time and I was beyond exhilarated when I caught my first wave. Let’s just say I totally get it now—I get why people like riding waves. Just like that runner’s high after you finish a race, catching a wave makes you feel like you’re on top of the world and really at one with the environment. Dino was so good at it too and didn’t fall off the board nearly as many times as I did. We even caught a few waves together (how romantic, right?). Surfing was by far the highlight of my trip to Hawaii and I can’t wait to try it again. Maybe Costa Rica next?

If you’re going surfing any time soon, follow these tips from surfing legend Ty Gurney.

  • When you’re starting out. . . Use a big board. Bigger is better.
  • As you’re catching that wave. . . Keep your eyes forward. Never look down or around—this will throw you off balance.
  • Learn proper surfing etiquette. If there are a lot of surfers hanging around in the water waiting to catch a wave, take turns if you can so you don’t crash into each other.
  • Always. . . Surf with confidence!

Now tell us: What’s on your fitness bucket list?