Growing up in the Midwest, I can’t explain why I’ve always been fascinated with surfing. I’ve never been good at skateboarding, I’m too afraid of smashing my body apart snowboarding, and usually when I’m near an ocean, it’s on the sandy, rum-soaked shores of the calm blue Caribbean Sea. But something about slicing through salty sea spray, gliding across a glassy wave, paddling out into the surf, being
allowed required to wear Vans every day… seems like a pretty great time to me. I’ve only been able to actually try it once, and it was INCREDIBLE!! But I was out of shape, had a broken foot, and holy crap, the ocean totally kicked. my. ass.
Closer to home, we have a reasonable surf-alternative in stand-up paddle boarding (SUP). Why do we need to stand on water? I don’t know, but it’s awesome. A few years ago, a local yoga instructor decided the ground was just too, I don’t know, GROUNDED, so she took her yoga practice to the water, and SUP yoga was born!
I fall over regularly in normal yoga, but I just couldn’t shake the need to try this- it was just crazy enough to work.
SUP isn’t terribly difficult on it’s own- the boards are long and fairly wide, so they’re pretty stable when you’re kneeling, standing, and basically tooling around. But yoga, you know, is all up and down and twisty and balance-y. So doing it on a floating wobble-board makes total sense. ??? When a friend I hadn’t seen in a while emailed me, asking if I’d be interested in checking it out, I immediately signed up.
I fully expected to be the spaz of the group. I was really worried I would either a) drift away from the group, b) fall into the lake, or c) drift into someone else causing them to fall into the lake. Thankfully, we had anchors (ok, it was a hand weight on a string) clipped on to the backs of our boards, so my drifting fears were calmed. But! While we were gathering into our class-pod, I was the victim of a float-by-crashing! Neither of us fell in, but my anchor did, so I kind of just stayed there.
We started off with some basic seated stretching- totally doable. Then we started going through a flow. This is where I was hella thankful that I’ve been working on strength all summer. Every single muscle was engaged, pushing into the board, hanging on for dear life as I moved from standing to plank (eep!), through chaturanga and up-dog, finally into the worst version of downward dog I have ever done. The instructor suggested moving into 3-legged dog, then letting our hip open. HA! Funny one- I will stay here reluctantly raising one leg off the board, thank you. We went through a few more terrifying flows, then stood to practice tree.
Now, I’m totally a rock star at tree. I can tree all day. Once during tree, there was a squirrel in a tree outside staring right at me, and I out-stared that squirrel in tree. On a board, it’s a different story. Maybe if I went more often, I would feel more brave, but having only one leg on the ground was totally not happening. I know the intention of tree, though, so I wriggled my foot into a kickstand, drew my knee back, and rocked that tree. It was amazing. I owned this moment.
UNTIL A GIANT FISH JUMPED RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY BOARD.
I was in no way prepared for this!! My tree fell, I almost fell, and I was so startled I could only giggle and crouch down on my board, trying to recover. Jerk move, fish.
Something I haven’t mentioned yet is, this whole time, I was completely distracted with keeping my paddle on the board. Somehow, everyone else had no problems, but mine kept sliding around. An SUP paddle clip needs to be invented if this yoga on the water is going to become a thing. Go invent it and make millions. You’re welcome.
We moved into a prone back-bending series. This was lovely- close to the ground, full contact with the board, and my face fit perfectly in the spoon of my paddle. During the second phase, my paddle shifted up away from my face, but it was ok- being eye level with the water was incredible. At this point, all the internal swearing stopped, and I was totally in the moment. The water gently flowing past my face, the sounds of the evening creeping in, the moon rising… absolutely breathtaking.
And that’s when I realized my paddle had floated away.
As we worked through a warrior series, a precarious triangle series, and some bridges, I watched my paddle drifting slowly further away from the group. A canoe went by my paddle. I sent them a psychic message: grab it!! Bring it to me! You’re hair looks really pretty today! But to no avail. A father and daughter paddled by in a giant swan, also oblivious to my paddle abandonment. As we relaxed into Savasana, I resigned myself to a life on the lake, living on this board, becoming reluctant neighbor-friends with that jerk fish….
Obviously, my friend totally saved me after we were done with class- she was happy to actually paddle on the board, and retrieved it like some kind of magical surfing rocket. After an hour of mental-swearing my way through an otherwise standard set of poses, paddling back into shore was a piece of cake. Or apple cobbler. Which is totally what I ate when we got back to shore.
Oh! One girl did fall in, but she got back up, and rocked that shit.
Would I do it again? Maybe. At $25, it was a little steep for a regular workout, but it did really make me remember all the little tweaks that we learn on the ground to make your poses more stable. I think I’m more likely to just go regular SUP-ing (?), and maybe it’s time I finally head to the Malibu of the Midwest to ride some actual waves, Blue Crush-style.
What’s the craziest workout you’ve tried lately? What should I try next? Let me know in the comments!
photos by Maureen Hebl, SUP yoga instructor, who is part water spider maybe? She was yoga-ing on her board like nbd. AMAZING.