Open For Fitness: We Tried a Stand-Up Paddleboard Class from Paddle Core Fitness
Working our cores without doing planks or situps, and being in the ocean? We’re here for it.
Editor’s Note: Stacey and Katrina are at vastly different fitness levels (and ages) but both enjoy working out. We thought it’d be fun for the two of them to try new or interesting workouts together each month. This time they took a stand-up paddleboard class from Paddle Core Fitness.
WHAT IT IS
Stand-up paddleboarding (SUPing) has become a popular pastime for surfers and nonsurfers alike all around the world. Reid Inouye, owner and instructor of Paddle Core Fitness, started his company in 2007 as a way for people to work out and strengthen their core while doing something fun in the ocean. Sprinting drills, squat repetitions, abdominal twists and other workout exercises (while on a board) are incorporated into every PCF class. Stacey took a few PCF classes years ago and SUPs recreationally; Katrina is new to the board game.
HOW WE FELT: BEFORE
Stacey: I wasn’t nervous about the class. Once you’ve SUPed, you pretty much get the hang of it. We did have to cancel twice due to potential hurricane weather and I knew ocean conditions would have to be calm and glassy for a good SUP day. I knew Katrina was salty at me for making her wake up early.
Katrina: I was dreading the 7:30 a.m. call time and the cold water (Stacey said it wouldn’t be cold but if it’s below my body temperature, it’s cold). Plus, those boards look heavy. And what happens if I get tired? It’s not like I can just stop working out when I’m 50 yards offshore. I guarantee I’m gonna fall. And it’ll be documented. Great.
When we arrived at Magic Island, the sun wasn’t fully out and clouds lined the horizon, but it warmed up quickly (sunscreen is a must). We met at lifeguard tower 1D, the second to last tower on the Diamond Head side of the park. Reid slid our private session in between his usual 7 and 8 a.m. classes, so when we arrived he was ready to go. He explained the basics (on shore) such as how to attach a leash, where to stand on the board, how to get on and the right form. Once we were in the water, we took what we learned and started paddling.
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Stacey: Even though I’ve paddled before, the refresher from Reid was useful. There were tiny bumps (from the outside breaks) in the water, so when I popped up on my board I adjusted my feet to where he instructed, stood straight, straightened my arms and held them like a sidewards V and turned my paddle the right way—with the slope of the blade away from me. The first few times I paddleboarded, I had the blade pointed the wrong way. And I went nowhere. So lolo.
Katrina: Getting on the board was no problem, since we were in shallow water and you just lift your knee to climb on. Standing was another story. My whole body was tense as I did my best to find balance. I wasn’t comfortable by any means, but too bad—we were going. Reid noticed my leash was too tight (my leg was turning purple, whoops) so he adjusted it for me and showed me how to push the top of the paddle with one hand and pull with the bottom hand to go straight. He said it takes about five minutes for your body to get used to standing on the board before it relaxes.
Stacey: While Reid assisted Katrina, I putt-putted around, getting my sea legs. Then I started working on turns—ai-yai-yai. My turn transitions needed HELP. Reid must’ve seen my less than graceful attempts. He reminded me to paddle on the opposite side you want to turn to or back paddle while facing forward. Got it! I thought. Nope, still movin’ like a turtle.
Katrina: Turning came pretty naturally to me. I didn’t understand how to open my hips though (how do you do that while keeping your feet parallel?), and it took me a minute to figure out how to drop my shoulder when I paddled downward. The hardest thing to master was staring straight ahead. If you look down, you’ll lose balance. I don’t even know what I was doing when I fell off. Thankfully, the water was nice and warm by then and we were still in the shallows so it was easy to climb back on. We paddled back and forth between some markers a few times to practice until I finally felt at ease and had shaken off the embarrassment. Then, we headed farther out to sea.
Stacey: Reid had us squat pigeon-toed so that most of our weight would be on our heels. After several reps, I could feel it really working my hammies and buttocks. Burrrrn, baby burn! Adjusting our arm positions and holding our paddles lower while opening up our hips to row was supposed to work our obliques. I was trying hard to ace this move, ’cause my love handles could use some tough love. Sweat started drippin’ down my back. I was channeling my inner Kai Lenny.
Katrina: These quad-burning squats were supposed to make us sprint through the water, but I couldn’t go that fast because after only one or two strokes on my left side, I needed to paddle on my right to keep going in a straight line, and every time I switched, I slowed down. But two minutes of this and I almost wished I would fall again to cool off.
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Stacey: I was a little ahead of Reid and Katrina, so I didn’t hear him say that between the buoy and the shore is the swimmer’s path. Beyond the buoy, toward the breaks, was the lane for SUPers. This would’ve been helpful to know, especially when swimmers are flying toward you and you’re not good at turning! It was like playing Frogger trying to avoid ocean traffic.
After this exercise, Reid showed us a technique to turn quicker. Place the blade closer to the top of the board and dig into the water so the whole blade is wet, then pull back and out. It worked! Just like that, I could turn faster. Well, normal speed.
Katrina: Out near the reef, a small swell rolled in and I started rocking left to right. I don’t know if I was supposed to be turning my board, pushing through my heels or engaging my core to steady myself, but I lost my balance and ate it again—this time in much deeper water, so I couldn’t push off the bottom to get back up. But at least it was nice and cool.
Stacey: After the sprinting and core exercises, we learned how to get back on the board if you fall off in high surf. Swim to the back of the board, wrap one arm around the top and pull yourself up. Then, scooch your body up the board, don’t lift your ‘ōkole. When you are in the middle, you can pop up or sit on your knees and paddle. I found this tip super useful, although I don’t think either of us are ready fo’ charge ’um just yet.
Katrina: I was the one who needed this advice most and did it wrong right off the bat. Reid said that sitting up too quickly when it’s windy can make your board fly up and knock you backward. I got back down and army-crawled until he said it was OK to kneel. We paddled back to shore, hopped off our boards, pulled them up onto the sand and showered off.
HOW WE FELT: AFTER
Katrina: I don’t know why I was so nervous—this was super fun and, despite falling twice, I feel like I got the hang of it pretty quickly. Even at 8:30 a.m., the sun was killer, so the water felt really nice. My back muscles started hurting on the way to the office so I can only imagine how I’d feel if I did drills for an hour.
Stacey: I felt good. I mean, we were in the ocean paddling around having fun working out without having to really work out. Reid was very patient and his knowledge of the ocean and SUPing helped both of us feel comfortable and confident in the water. I just booked my next SUP class. Katrina crushed it (very proud of her) and by the end of class the only thing salty was the air.
Ala Moana Beach Park, Lifeguard Tower 1D. Private session is $135 per person, $120 per person for groups of two or more. Prices start at $15 for a weekly class if you bring your own board; rentals available. See the full price list here. Morning classes are available Wednesday through Sunday; 5 p.m. classes are available Wednesday and Thursday.