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Hanging Ten with REI

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