By Sarah Sekula, published in Breathe Magazine
Back in the 1960s, famous beach boys on the coast of Waikiki used long outrigger canoeing paddles to help control their surfboards. That way, they could keep an eye on tourists during their surf lessons and even snap photos. Turns out, it was also a blast. So, it didn’t take long for it to catch on and turn into a sport.
In fact, it was eventually added to surf contests, and today has morphed into standup paddleboarding, or SUP, which can be enjoyed on even the wimpiest of ocean waves. Instead of lying face down and paddling out to catch a wave, you stand upright on the paddleboard and propel through the water using a single, long, angled paddle. For those who don’t live near the beach, never fear: It can be done in marinas, harbors, inland lakes and rivers no where near the seacoast.
Known for giving participants a full-body workout, SUP has a broad appeal because it’s fairly easy for all ages to learn. Just ask Stu Schuck, paddleboard instructor at the Wild Dunes Resort in South Carolina and waterman extraordinaire. The 48-year-old has taught hundreds of people since picking up the sport five years ago. “I have seen some incredible physical transformations from people who start and continue to paddle,” Schuck says.
His lessons go something like this: After a few quick tips, each guest hops onto a sturdy SUP board, typically about 12 feet long and much thicker and buoyant that a regular surfboard. With paddles in hand, guests take off to through a beautiful scenic creek where they pass waterfront mansions and a wilderness area. “We enter areas that are extremely quiet except for the marsh hens,” he says. “It is peaceful, but you know there is lots of life around you.”
Once they approach the Intracoastal Waterway, the nature overload continues. Here, it’s not uncommon to spot pods of dolphins, black skimmers flying overhead and even manatees in the summertime.
“I love to paddle in the early mornings in the ocean as the sun is coming up,” he explains. “That’s when the ocean is teaming with life, especially the dolphins, and it seems as if they are hanging out with you. To be that close to nature is very exciting.”
Beyond the zen-like atmosphere, women love the fact that you are burning plenty of calories. In fact, Schuck says, “the average female will burn between 500 to 700 calories per hour compared to running on a treadmill, which will burn 300 to 400.”
With that said, it is an excellent way to work your core muscles. It’s a very solid workout, and one of the most exilirating ways to get exercise, Schuck says.
For starters, the fact that you are standing and balancing on a board helps strengthen the legs, back, shoulders, arms and gluts. Since it’s very low impact, it’s a great way to cross train, especially for for skiers, snowboarders and other athletes
The best part is: You choose your speed. If you’d like to only work on balance, opt for a SUP yoga class, which incorporates everything from sun salutations to the final resting pose. If you want more of an aerobic workout, then just paddle harder. Fast paddlers can generate speeds of more than 10 m.p.h.
Or, try a calisthenics workout. These type of classes sometimes include squats, push-ups and squat thrusts on the board. Experts says, you can work up to 85 percent of the muscles in the body this way.
Whatever style you choose, one thing is fairly certain: If you like the outdoors and enjoy a workout, you are likely going to enjoy the sport of paddleboarding.
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