It’s one of the most soulful experiences you can have on the water. Just you and the ocean.

Dave "Lebo" Lebatard demonstrates SUP in Miami
Dave “Lebo” Lebatard demonstrates SUP in Miami
Moving rhythmically with the swell. Realizing your insignificance in relation to the great mother Earth. With each swoop your navigating through the open blue.  It’s just like, well, walking on water.  I’m talking about paddle boarding of course.Here at GBT we consider sports like paddle boarding to be excellent way to workout beyond the gym walls.

Stand-Up Paddle boarding, or SUP, is one of the fastest growing water sports in the world.  It seems that everybody’s doing it, from surfers and wanna-be surfers,  to yuppies and fitness enthusiasts.  And with good reason!  It’s an excellent workout that requires balance, coordination, skill and endurance.  It’s also relatively easy to learn and a lot of fun!

The Hawaiian name for stand up paddle surfing, Ku Hoe He’e Nalu, means to paddle, to surf, a wave.  Derived from its Polynesian roots, SUP began gaining popularity in Hawaii as early as 1960s.  It was in the 2000’s however, that it really took off when  big wave surfers such as Laird Hamilton used SUP as an alternative way to train while the surf was down, making SUP what it is today. The coolest thing about SUP is that you can do it anywhere.  Lakes, oceans, swamps, any place you find water, you can paddle board.

A Great Workout

So why is SUP such a great workout?

1. Enhancing Balance and Stability:

Balancing on an unstable surface, like a board floating on the water, improves your proprioception (your sense of the relative position of your body).  Basically, that means that we play on unstable surfaces to become more stable.

2. Developing Core Muscles:

Paddle boarding is a great rotational workout!  Your obliques and spinal rotators, which are part of your core, get overlooked in most exercise programs.  So, we like any exercise that conditions them, like paddle boarding! (side note:  I HATE the phrase “good for the core”!  It’s been overused, abused, and driven into the ground by people who can’t name a single muscle in their “core” yet somehow claim they know everything that is good for it.  But, the obliques and spinal rotators are part of your core, and they do get underexercised, so in just this case I’ll go ahead and say it:  Paddle boarding is good for your core.)

3. Strengthening Back and Shoulders:

Paddling is a pulling pattern.  A lot of times pulling or rowing movements are underutilized, which leaves us with weak and under developed upper back and posterior shoulder muscles.  Paddle boarding can help strengthen and develop these muscles.

4. Improving Cardiovascular:

Paddle boarding is a great cardio workout, and is an excellent alternative to the boring treadmill!  You can alter the intensity to achieve different results.  For example: you can take a longer slower paddle for fat metabolism or bust out some sprints to get an anaerobic effect.

Paddle boarding is great fun and a killer workout. No matter what reason you first try it, you’re going to love it!

Getting Started

Paddle boarding can be quite a large initial investment- new paddle boards range anywhere from $900 -$1200 dollars so until you’re hooked you may want to rent a board for the first couple paddles. 

If you’re in Miami you can check out South Beach Kayak. They’ve got a good selection of beginner boards and are reasonably priced.

Choosing a board:

Sizes are based on weight and experience.  More experienced and lighter paddlers can choose narrow boards.  Novice paddlers should choose wider, flatter boards, which offer more stability.

Choosing a paddle:

Paddles should be about 6-8 inches taller than you are.  When you decide to buy your own, you’ll have plenty of choices and price tags, but when renting you just have to worry about it being tall enough.

Launching into the water

Once you’ve successfully made it into the water with your board, the progression of getting from the kneeling position to stand up paddle boarding is relatively easy. Just take it slow and allow your body to acclimate to the new challenge! These steps below should help you ease right into your SUP activities:

1. First, I would suggest kneeling and paddling out into open water before getting started.

Fig 1A: Push off into the water in kneeling position
Fig 1B: Get comfortable with the balance on the board

2.  Start from the kneeling position with the paddle laying across the board at a perpendicular angle, secured by both hands.

Fig 2: Start in Kneeling Position

3. Choose a leg that you feel the most stable on and slowly move it forward to a lunge position.

Fig 3: Move into Lunge Position

4. From here you can maintain your stability by keeping hands on the paddle as you slide the back foot up to where it is parallel to the lead foot.  Begin to stand up as you gain your balance.

Fig 4: Stand Up

5. Once you are completely upright you may begin to paddle.  I would recommend “setting” the abdominal wall.  All this means is brace your stomach as if someone were about to punch you in the gut.  Place one hand over the top of the paddle handle and the other a couple of feet down, still keeping a bent elbow.  From here, reach forward with the paddle dipping it into the water, then pulling it straight back along the side of the board.  There are different techniques you can use to produce different results but we will get into these later in an advanced video lesson.

Fig 5A: Keep your abdominal wall tight!
Enjoy your ride!

I think you’ll be surprised how quickly you will pick up this unique and fun sport.  Feel free to send in your paddle boarding pics, and as always, get out there and enjoy our earth!

Thanks to Dave “Lebo” LeBatard, an accomplished artist and paddle boarding enthusiast, for demonstrating SUP in these photos.  You can check out his work at
And special thanks to Jason Koerner for the photography!

Published by Mike Fitch

Mike is the founder of Global Bodyweight Training. He has more than 12 years as a fitness professional encompassing a wide range of disciplines which he draws upon to create the GBT system.

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