“When did we move to a beach town?”
After several months of being isolated in the spring/summer of 2020 I realized that the thing I missed most was not eating out or even socializing, it was the gym. To be more specific it was the pool. I believe it was the mixture of needing to get out of the house and finding a way to move my body that got me to jump into the water I have lived next to for the last 20 years. My husband and I accepted an invitation to visit a friend’s lake house. There was an outdoor entrance into the backyard which had plenty of space for a distance visit, a dock to jump off for a swim, and lots of water toys. That is where I fell in love with Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP). Fast forward to the summer of 2022 and my husband caught the same bug.
“Strong for Life, Able for Life” has not only been my favorite phrase to have made its way onto my chalkboard, it has also become a way of life. It is a long-term investment that I got a small taste of this summer. Out of curiosity, my husband decided to forgo his kayak on a day outing and take a turn on my SUP. I was trying out a different board that day, so we had a spare. Being constrained in what we could do, given the pandemic in 2020 we found the first board through Craigslist and took a couple hours off midday on a Wednesday to drive from Seattle to Bellingham, find a dude in a truck at the parking lot of an office supply store who we then followed into a storage facility stocked with boards that could not be sold from stores that could not be open. It was strange and great at the same time. That board helped me learn the sport I had shaken my head at for years. I fell in Lake Washington, Lake Union, even The Sound and enjoyed every minute of it. When I saw the familiar look of discovery on my husband’s face as he successfully paddled away from me on that same board, I knew I that was the last I would be on it. It fit him better in every way. Two hours later he paddled up to me, yelled “I’m having so much fun!” and fell in for the first time, then followed it up with, “Now I’m so wet!” Smiling bigger that I had seen for a bit.
My experimental board didn’t work out. Inspired by the freedom of the water, he found me another two days later. He had been a kayak fan since his youth, but had no hesitation to sell off his vessel and all the gear, to be no longer encumbered by the seating position with little room to wiggle. With the end of an era in a kayak on his side, and a new, much harder, board on my side, we spent our summer on, in, or looking at the water from shore three days a week. It was glorious. Bikini clad and topless bodies, wine in cans and meat sticks, grocery stores you could paddle up to and shop at dripping wet, nods from other paddlers or captains of giant ships casually passing by… all of it felt like a dream. The best part being that every night we came back to the same home we cherish.
If you’re wondering why I’ve posted this article on my fitness site instead of my other, that’s easy; how many workouts can you enjoy doing for most of the day yet burn up to 500 calories an hour? The people you see looking calm and effortless are working every muscle in their bodies. Especially the brain. If you’ve ever stood on a Bosu Ball, Wobble Board, or even a trampoline with others trying to tip you, that’s SUP. The added benefit being, if you get it right you go places on top of the water with your own strength making it happen.
This activity dates as far back as 3,000 BC. There are fantastic images of people standing on boards of all sorts using whatever-worked-best-at-the-time to pull themselves forward. The good fortune we have in SUP becoming part of our lives now is multifaceted; one thing is the advanced technology put into the building of these boards and paddles. Another cool detail is learning how many body parts can be worked at once. As I said before, all of them. It is a well-known fact that it targets the core and greatly challenges balance, but it works so much more. Especially at the beginning. A deeper dive into that is “Compound Workouts,” the official term for an exercise that works more than one muscle group at the same time. Muscle groups, as in leg day, back day, arm day, and core day, all can be done on one day, if done right. An example is a squat to overhead press, simply put; bending your knees and pushing your butt out to pick something up, then standing to put that something up on a shelf above your head. Try doing that a few times in a row and you’ll feel it in multiple groups of muscles. If you’re limited on time the most efficient way to approach a workout is with compound movements.
With SUP, the traffic on the water, the weather, and your chosen speed are some of the details that decide what parts are being used most at the different points in your excursion. In choppy water your legs will be extra active to keep the board level, and hopefully, beneath you. If the water is more like glass, you can push through your core and upper body to move a faster clip. When the wind is at your face the water feels like tar that you will spend an hour moving forward 10’ in. For me, the unpredicted nature of it is half the appeal. I remember walking funny for a couple days once before realizing the paddle we did just before had a side wind for a great deal of time and I worked one side of my body to stay upright. These are just some of the benefits of paddle boarding.
There is good and bad in liking a sport that is so directly tied to nature. This past summer was an entirely new view of a town I feel is my home, and as will always happen, summer has now passed. We have the gear to get out there in the rain, even for a bit into the cooling of the water. The question we both are asking ourselves now is whether it appeals? I’m impressed by the people I see pushing against the wind on the sound on a grey January day, but there fortunately are many other things to do to keep my parts strong and able. Let’s see what comes up next.