If you’ve run into me in the last 5 years, you’ve probably been subjected to a passionate ramble about how much I love stand up paddle boarding (SUP, for short). Ever since the first time I set foot on a board I knew it was going to be a new obsession, and five years later it’s still one of my favorite ways to enjoy the beautiful Seattle summers. I even teamed up with a software developer (*cough* my bf Ryan *cough*) to create an app to find places to paddle! That is some unprecedented devotion on my part. For real. Thanks to Facebook’s “On This Day” memories feature, I recently saw that SUP and I have just celebrated five years together.
Yes, my first time on a board was for a SUP yoga class. Would I recommend this tactic? Possibly. For me, combining the two at the start was a unique challenge that a.) further encouraged me to be “present” and b.) made paddle boarding without yoga seem that much easier. Though the majority of that first class was spent learning how to efficiently get back on the board (as were the next few), I think it made me love it even more because I tackled the fear of falling in at the get-go. If you think falling in a few times might turn you off of the idea, I’d say maybe start off with a nice non-yoga paddle your first time.
SUP has been more than just a past-time, though. For me, it was a window into what I am capable of. Growing up, I was NEVER athletic. Though I attempted multiple times, any attempt at becoming fit either resulted in an injury or a breathing issue due to my being allergic to Arizona (they called it “exercise-induced asthma” at the time, but I’m pretty sure I’m just allergic to Arizona). I tried to get into running more times than I could count, but each time would end with a bout of shin splints or a coughing fit or a twisted ankle (even the slightest uneven sidewalk could put me out of the game for weeks). I had all but given up when I discovered SUP, and the rest is history. Fun fact: I haven’t had a twisted ankle in five years. True story. The low-impact nature of this highly physical sport allows you to progress at a slow–yet-noticeable pace; before I knew it I was stronger in ways I never even imagined.
SUP has also helped the neck/shoulder/back pain I developed from an accident in high school by targeting what I like to call my “slouch” muscles (I am not a doctor). Don’t even get me started on the mental health benefits! (Okay, do.) As someone who suffers with daily anxiety , ~monthly bouts of depression, and ADD, SUP is a therapy to me that is yet to be matched by anything. (Except meds. Meds are great. Take your meds.)
Being on the water at the mercy of uncontrollable environmental factors makes you have to focus as well as go with the flow. For me, that is the ultimate state of zen. You can contemplate life or think about absolutely nothing, all while enjoying some fresh air, working every major muscle group, and maybe getting in some cardio (if you’re actually paddling *insert winky face*).
It’s crazy that it has already been five years, but I’m so glad I discovered this amazing sport. Would I recommend it? Absolutely! Have questions? Feel free to comment here or send me a message. I’m not a professional, but I do have lots of opinions!* Also, if you’re in Seattle and thinking about trying it out, Surf Ballard (my go-to place for SUP yoga) has a Groupon for a 2-hour SUP rental that you should check out. This isn’t sponsored in any way, I just really like Surf Ballard.
In closing, a haiku.
First SUP Yoga Class
Paddling Puget Sound
A loud SPLASH is heard by all
Get back on the board
Crow pose, warrior,
Downward dog is super hard
SPLASH, back on the board
Seal friend plays nearby
I turn to see him splish, SPLASH
Get back on the board
Suspicious, he is
The instructor wondering
If I fall for fun
That is not the case
I just truly am bad at
Paddle board yoga
Everything was wet
However, I persisted
Now, I fall in less**
*Just wanted to emphasize that I am not a professional.
** Still definitely
Not professional at all
Maybe someday soon
Katrina Charles is a musician, writer, wanderer, adventurer, etc. currently living in Seattle, Washington. When she’s not doing the above activities, she enjoys paddleboarding, remembering to wear her fitbit, drawing, designing, and trying new things.
Fun article. I really liked the haiku.
Hey Katrina, very inspiring post! Hopefully it will encourage others to try SUP. 🙂 I found my love of stand up paddle boarding through yoga as well, it’s a different perspective. Being a stand up paddle board enthusiast I’m looking forward to traveling to Seattle at some point and exploring the area by water. What are the best months to be on the water in Seattle?
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How inspiring. you told us nothing but the positive sides of SUP and it inspired me. i thought SUP can only provide physical benefits but as you mentioned, you’ve been experiencing anxiety and other emotional and mental health issues, and SUP helped in conquering those illnesses. what is it really like to stand-up paddle board? i would really love to try that someday and i bet i would love it because i love the ocean. thanks!