What’s SUP? Stand-up paddleboarding

Participation has increased steadily.

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Gliding peacefully across the water, paddle in hand, you take in the vast expanse of the tranquil waterway.

“One of the great things about standing up on the water is that you can see things so clearly,” Tom Helbig said. “Not only in front of you, but below you. It’s like paddling in an aquarium.”

Helbig, owner of Tomfoolery Outdoors, is one of a growing number of stand up paddleboard enthusiasts. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, stand-up paddleboarding — commonly referred to as SUP — participation has increased steadily in recent years. Participation has increased 24 percent over the past three years, and SUP recorded the greatest one-year increase of all activities, 29 percent, in the 2014 report.

Part surfing (minus the monster waves) and part kayaking, SUP provides a full-body workout for participants.

“And anyone can do it,” SUP enthusiast Shannon Thomas said. “Once you find a center point and balance, you can be paddling in minutes.

“I would be out every day if I could.”

Getting started

Helbig experienced SUP for the first time while visiting the Florida Keys with friends, but, like many local enthusiasts, he also tried it out at the annual Midwest Outdoor Experience. It wasn’t long before he was hooked. He now teaches classes himself (canoegrass@gmail.com) and recently completed a 156-mile SUP journey from Indian Lake to the Ohio River.

“It’s definitely becoming a bit more mainstream in this part of the country,” Helbig said.

Paddleboarding locations can include lakes, rivers, streams, bays and beaches. Community parks, like the Voice of America Park in West Chester, offer SUP opportunities as guests can rent a stand up paddleboard for $16-$18 an hour.

Local outfitters like Whitewater Warehouse (www.kayakdayton.com) and Great Miami Outfitters (www.greatmiamioutfitters.com) carry equipment and offer opportunities to give SUP a try. It’s best to try before you buy as boards can vary in length, width and thickness. They generally range from 9-12 feet long and 28-33 inches wide.

“A beginner-friendly board is going to be a bit longer, wider and more stable,” Helbig said. “They will be better for flat water.”

Beyond basic SUP

An avid kayaker long before she climbed onto her first stand up paddleboard, Amy Anslinger has found a way to combine two of her favorite activities as the assistant director of outdoor recreation at Wright State University, teaches a weekly SUP yoga class at Eastwood MetroPark.

“I love the dynamic movement of the water against the board and I love doing yoga outside,” Anslinger said. “There is definitely an added challenge but, for people who enjoy yoga, doing it on a board is a lot of fun. It’s like a floating yoga mat.”

Alignment and keeping the core engaged are especially critical when practicing SUP yoga. The weekly sessions might have as few as two participants and as many as 18 and are designed for all ability levels.

“You can play with the stances and try more difficult moves as you progress,” she said.

Much like kayakers or canoeists, some SUP enthusiasts take weekend camping or fishing trips – with minimal gear on their board.

SUP benefits

“It’s all about the core,” Helbig said.

More so than other paddlesports, SUP helps boost core strength.

“After a day on the river or the lake, I felt like I did 500 sit-ups,” he said. “But this is a whole lot more fun.”

Because it’s done while standing, leg strength and overall balance will also likely improve. And the paddling motion provides a workout for the shoulders and arms.

“It really is a full-body workout,” Thomas said. “And the great thing is, if you get tired, you can kneel or, even, lay down on the board. For longer trips, it’s great to switch positions.”

Anslinger – who occasionally takes to the SUP with one of her kids in tow – agrees.

“Every stroke can be done while standing, sitting or kneeling,” she said. “So it really is fun for the whole family.”

Increased mindfulness is another benefit of SUP yoga. And, every so often, SUP yoga might mean a quick unintended dip in the lagoon.

“Occasionally someone ends up in the water,” Anslinger said. “But just like any sport, there is a learning curve. People should really come out and try it.”

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