As the owner of Paddle Into Fitness, Gillian Gibree’s San Diego-based company was the first in the area to offer yoga atop Stand Up Paddleboards.
But in the last five or so years, she said, it’s been exciting to watch the SUP sport explode.
“My company … was the first company offering weekly SUP yoga classes in San Diego — now they are everywhere,” Gibree said. “The weather is great here, so you can paddleboard year-round. It’s a nice way for people to stay in shape on the water without having to do anything too aggressive like surfing.”
Gibree — who’s also a professional SUP athlete and a SUP yoga instructor — said the relatively new sport not only allows people to get outdoors and enjoy the water and the weather, but it also offers an overall body workout for those looking to add variety to their exercise routines.
SUP is a hybrid of sorts between canoeing and surfing. During SUP, people balance on a surf-style board and move themselves with a long paddle. Its roots trace to Hawaii, where the sport’s founder used a paddle to help catch towing, but it’s since evolved and can be done anywhere there’s water, such as oceans, lakes, marshes, rivers or bays.
To get started with SUP, a person needs an all-around board, usually 10 to 12 feet in length, as well as a paddle, leash and portable flotation device.
Gibree said anyone can be a good candidate to try SUP, no matter what their ability or experience. But because it requires some balance, she said those who already work out regularly or do yoga may have an easier time getting started.
“As long as you stay in flat water (the bay, not the ocean) to start, you should be up and paddling your first day,” she said.
All the while, those who try SUP are giving their bodies a workout, said Jessica Matthews, senior advisor for Health and Fitness Education for the San Diego-based American Council on Exercise and a SUP Yoga Instructor.
“SUP is a fun way to strengthen your entire body — challenging everything from the muscles of your arms to the muscles of your feet, with an emphasis on core stabilization,” Matthews said. “It also is a great option in terms of improving balance and can serve as a great cardio cross-training option.”
In fact, Matthews said, because there are so many health and fitness-related benefits of SUP coupled with growing interest in SUP training — Matthews and Gibree co-created a four-day SUP fitness instructor training program that will be held July 21-22 and July 25-26 in San Diego.
It’s aimed at certified fitness professionals who are interested in developing and instructing SUP fitness classes and one-on-one SUP training sessions.
For students who are interested in trying SUP, Gibree recommends taking a beginner lesson to learn the proper stroke technique to prevent injury and engage the core. There are also safety issues to keep in mind, such as getting on the water early in the morning when there’s the least amount of wind on the bay and wearing a leash to prevent separating paddlers from the board, if they fall.
Once the basics are learned, people can vary their SUP workout by adding yoga, which Matthews said requires greater core activation and a greater focus on balance because the paddleboard serves as an unstable work surface.
She said adding yoga also allows people to vary their workouts between outdoors and indoors, something she said has research-backed benefits. Studies have even shown training outdoors tends to be more engaging and mentally stimulating compared to exercising indoors, she said.
“Participants who exercise outside report greater feelings of revitalization and increased energy,” Matthews said.
For more information, go online to paddleintofitness.com. For more information about this month’s SUP fitness instructor training, visit paddleintofitness.com/sup-fitness-certification-ace.