Long Islanders are taking their workouts onto boards this summer, both on the water and off. Surfing fitness classes, which use indoor surfboard balance boards, have been popping up all over this year, and stand up paddlers are attending yoga classes on the water. Both of these board workouts force you to fine-tune your positioning and balance during exercises. There’s no way to cheat during a movement, since the boards don’t allow bad habits or bully muscles to take over.
Long Island, with its embarrassment of riches of beautiful waterways, is the perfect place to practice yoga outside and on the water. Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) is an emerging sport based on an ancient Hawaiian form of surfing and offers an easy learning curve. With just a board and a paddle, SUPers can get out and start playing on the water in no time.
At Paddle Diva, SUP is not just a workout it’s a way of life for owner Gina Bradley, who displays a framed dedication to the activity in the chic whitewashed headquarters on Three Mile Harbor in East Hampton. It reads: “Paddle Diva (noun): Empowers, challenges and encourages women through stand up paddle boarding. Inspires and motivates women to exude great confidence and feel their best while walking on water.”
Gina launched her company three years ago to inspire a love of fitness, nature and the water, along with confidence in the women who paddle with her. She loves to see beginners and experienced paddlers alike get out, get wet and challenge themselves. I visited on a beautiful spring day, ready to get on my first floating board of any type.
But before you can try out your downward facing dog, you have to stand up. And before you can stand up, you need to get comfortable on the board.
Gina gives new paddlers a crash course in paddling, steering and balance. Within a few minutes I grew comfortable with the basic forward and backstrokes and got my footing. Gina showed me how to get my heart rate up by using short quick strokes. We worked through intervals of fast paddling and pushups, ab work and other exercises on the boards.
But for yoga, we paused in a quiet spot so we could focus on balance and achieving poses. Practicing yoga on the water challenged my core strength and awareness of my body as I tried not to topple over.
I conquered warrior pose and a downward facing dog with one leg raised, but I’ll have to go back to attempt a headstand. Still, just being on the water was a peaceful timeout. Floating atop the clear harbor, it was hard not to get an overwhelming sense of wellbeing. Add in the spirituality of yoga, and paddleboard yoga may be the best 90 minutes you treat yourself to this summer.
For those who don’t want to take their workout out on the water, or for the offseason, SurfSET Fitness classes offer similar core and balance work indoors.
The workout system has garnered a lot of buzz recently. Founded by surfers, the classes use full-body balance boards designed to feel like a surfboard on the water. That unstable wobble gives workouts on the board a core-burning boost.
Geralyn Marchisello, owner of Spine & Soul Studio in Bayside, had been searching for ways to challenge her Pilates clients’ cores and facilitate that ever-elusive mind-body connection when she saw the workout on tv.
“I immediately knew that was the training tool I had been waiting for,” she said during a Sunday morning SurfSET fitness training session with lively surf music as our backdrop.
She used to put three wobble boards together to achieve the same training effect as the indoor surfboard.
“It works all the fascia in the body, the connective muscles that form core strength and balance,” she said.
Geralyn thinks training on the board helps sculpt long, lean balanced bodies in a more holistic way than standard strength training. She led me through some classic yoga postures like plank and chaturanga dandasana, as well as some jumping power moves.
Between indoor surf fitness and outdoor paddle yoga, I could be forgiven for thinking I’m ready to hop on a surfboard this summer. But I’m still going back for more SUP paddling and indoor wave riding. Both workouts stand up on their own.