It's more than just a lazy beach-day pursuit
Michael Foston, ASc, BCRPA PT
Everyone’s doing it. From Orlando Bloom to Kendall Jenner, celebs have brought stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) to the mainstream (the former made an especially big splash by paddleboarding naked). With a little practice, you might even be able to master the much-Instagrammed art of SUP yoga.
If you’re itching to disconnect from city life, nothing beats paddleboarding. “Exploring endless inlets, islands and bays is a real treat for the adventurous soul,” says James Stewart, who designs and builds paddleboards. He’s logged countless happy hours exploring new expanses of water.
And you don’t need to travel to a far-flung tropical destination. Some of the best paddleboarding spots might be closer than you think.
Hawaii is where SUP originated in the 1940s. Surf instructors and lifeguards in Waikiki began standing on their boards to get a better view of surfers in the water and to monitor incoming swells. It’s still home to some sweet SUP spots, like Sunset Beach in Oahu.
California offers a chance to chill out on the calm waters of Santa Barbara Harbor. Or, you can head to Redondo Beach for a balance-testing SUP yoga class.
Florida is where you can find SUP tours to take you through Key West’s magical mangrove forests, which are dotted with unique sea life like manatees and stingrays.
In our everyday lives, we’re constantly bombarded with things to do—deadlines at work, busy home lives and traffic during our daily commutes. Time in nature allows us to disconnect from our day-to-day stresses. Wallace J. Nichols, a marine biologist, wrote in his recently published book, Blue Mind, that “our brains are hardwired to react positively to water and that being near it can calm and connect us.”
Many people think paddle-boarding is all about arm strength. In reality, muscles through your hips, core and upper body are all required to create a sustainable stroke and transfer power to the blade of the paddle. “A proper technique should work your back and shoulders more than your arms,” says Stewart.
Core strength is needed to stabilize your spine and pelvis and prevent unwanted body rotation, which can decrease paddling efficiency. Exercising on an unbalanced surface will build core strength and thus improve your balance and coordination.
Muscles in your legs will also feel the burn after a session on the water. Even small accessory muscles and ligaments around your ankles and knees will receive a good workout while working to keep you upright on the unstable board.
Recreational paddling in calm water with light winds will burn up to 430 calories in an hour, which sounds like a lot more fun than training on a treadmill at the gym. Boost this number by increasing the intensity or duration, or exposing yourself to more challenging conditions.
If you’re really looking for a challenge, try paddling against the tide or with a headwind, or just bring your dog along for a ride. It will definitely require more balance to keep you both dry. Just ask Stewart: Rarely will you see him paddling without the company of his pup, Charlie.
You can also challenge your balance and strength by completing some of your favorite yoga poses or body-weight exercises (like push-ups) on a paddleboard. The dynamic environment will definitely offer an increased level of difficulty.
Spirulina is a blue-green algae that’s rich in nutrients, including protein, B-complex vitamins and iron.
Use it: Add 1/2 tsp of spirulina powder to smoothies.
Wakame is a brown seaweed that turns bright green when rehydrated. It comes with vitamins A and C, calcium, magnesium and iron and is being studied for its anti-obesity effects.
Use it: After rehydrating wakame in water, chop it up for salads, rice dishes or soups.
Nori should look familiar. Used to bundle up sushi, it boasts calcium, potassium, zinc and an array of vitamins.
Use it: Beyond sushi, employ nori sheets as wheat-free wraps or snack on ready-to-eat toasted nori.