Practicing my paddling technique.
Tim Shepard at the end of our paddle around Orchard Lake.
A new breed has ridden a wave into town and they are paddling their way through our flat waters. Who is this small but growing group of water enthusiasts? What is their sport? They are stand-up paddlers. Their sport is stand-up paddleboarding/surfing (SUP). SUP requires you to stand on a paddleboard that is wider and longer than a conventional surf board and to use a paddle to propel yourself through the water.
SUP has a Hawaiian heritage that dates back to the days when the beach boys of Waikiki would stand on their surf boards and paddle off the shoreline to instruct and take pictures of novice surfers. The roots of the sport trace back even further to the early days of Polynesia.
SUP is the ultimate sport offering versatility and a total body workout of which anyone of any age, gender, skill, and fitness level can take advantage. Those who participate in SUP can choose to surf the waves of the oceans and Great Lakes (using the paddle as a rudder) or opt to paddle the flat waters. Because of their large size, two individuals can fit on the board, making it a great activity to do with your child.
Intrigued by its promise to challenge my cardiovascular system and to test my balance and core strength, I set out to attempt my hand at this sport and sought the advice and instruction of a seasoned paddler, Tim Shepard, owner of TWC Surf and Sport located in Sylvan Lake (www.twcsurfandsport.com
). "Its like walking on water" Shepard says as we set out on our adventure. SUP is not as complicated as it seems. Acquiring balance comes quickly thanks to the construction of the board (wide and long). Tracking (going in a straight line) is aided by a fin on the bottom of the paddleboard.
The paddling technique is important to optimize the fitness benefits of the sport as well as to prevent injury. Stroking is different for SUP than it is for canoeing. Bending at the waist will make you less efficient and can lead to back discomfort. Proper posture is the key to developing your upper body and core musculature and for engaging your stabilizers to maintain balance. Your body should be positioned at the center of the board, your feet parallel, knees bent, back straight, and eyes focused on the horizon.
Not only is stand-up paddleboarding a great workout, but it is enjoyment for your soul. Its peaceful, yet invigorating. You can become one with nature in a way that is not possible with some other water sports. "Its fun and exercise at the same time. You're getting your exercise without knowing it," states Brian LeFeve, owner of Great Lakes Kiteboarding stores located in St. Claire Shores and E. Tawas (www.greatlakeskiteboarding.com
Are you interested in "stepping on board" to join the SUP crowd? If so, here is some helpful information from LeFeve:
- Basic/recreational paddleboards tend to be longer and wider averaging around 11-12' long. Their size increases stability on the water. They are great for paddling on flat waters and for beginners.
- Touring paddleboards are more narrow than the basic to make them glide more smoothly and faster. They are designed for cruising long distances.
- Wave boards are shorter than the basic board (8.5-9' long) and are narrow like the touring paddleboard. They are designed for wave surfing. The paddle is used as a rudder to speed up and slow down. Wave boards typically have one large fin in the center and one smaller fin on either side to track on the wave and to do bottom turns.
- Hybrid paddleboards are a cross between a wave board and a touring board. They can be used to both surf and flat water paddle.
- Paddles are typically cut to size. The standard being cut to 7-10" over your height if you are using them for recreational fitness or touring. If you will be surfing, 3-6" over your height is recommended because of the crouched position you must assume and the frequent switching of sides of the paddle.
- Although more expensive, a carbon paddle is recommended because it is lighter in weight, delaying fatigue, and rebounds quicker, increasing speed.
If you're looking for a new form of exercise that keeps boredom at bay, I highly recommend stand-up paddleboarding. There is no monotony with this sport. Each downstroke brings you closer to a new adventure as you paddle off into the horizon.
Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.
For more information on this sport, contact either Tim Shepard or Brian LeFeve at the sites listed above or the phone numbers listed below.
Tim Shepard, owner of TWC Surf and Sport, 2133 Orchard Lake Rd., Sylvan Lake, MI 48320, (248) 681-1300.
Brian LeFeve, owner of Great Lakes Kiteboarding, 22600 Greater Mack, St. Clair Shores, MI 48080 or 211 Newman St., E. Tawas, MI 48730, (586) 822-6511.