Standup Paddling Fitness Craze Sweeps Inland

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C4 Waterman offers 5 tips to optimize SUP fitness experience

Olympic gold medal skier and C4 Waterman team rider Julia Mancuso enjoys standup paddling for crosstraining, fitness and six-pack abs.

Shape magazine calls standup paddling a "calorie-torching workout"

This May as Americans celebrate National Physical Fitness and Sports Month some of the most amazing workouts may well be taking place not in gyms, but on the water.

The latest fitness craze sweeping the nation brings the aloha spirit to working out. Standup paddling may be the most fun and pain-free way to achieve the twin goals of toning up and slimming down.

It's not uncommon for standup paddlers to shed 40 pounds or more in as little as three months. Honolulu City Councilman Donavan Dela Cruz reports he lost 60 pounds when he made standup paddling part of his fitness regime.

Though the roots of the sport are Hawaiian, one of the great things about standup paddling is you don't need ocean waves to do it; it's fun on rivers and lakes too, with or without waves. Shape magazine editors dubbed standup paddling, aka SUP, a "calorie-torching workout" advising readers they could "paddle (their) way sculpted."

Florida fitness instructor Brody Welte estimates standup paddling burns upwards of 40 percent more calories per hour than comparable time on a treadmill or elliptical machine.

Former pro surfer and standup paddling evangelist Jodie Nelson says SUP is a great workout for your core, your arms, your legs, and your bottom because you are trying to stand on a board in an unstable environment (water) while trying to paddle and balance at the same time. "Plus, you get the added benefit of being outdoors," says three-time Olympic medalist, Julia Mancuso who standup paddles in the off-season as a way to cross-train for the grueling pro ski tour. A happy outcome is six-pack abs, the sign of the type of strong core top pro skiers need, Mancuso says.

It's clear men and women agree standup paddling is a great full-body and cardiovascular workout. In fact a story in Hawaii's Star-Bulletin newspaper concluded women account for half of the standup paddling retailer customer base, and most of those women are focused on fitness with no interest in surfing.
Personal trainers and even yoga instructors are adapting their workouts to meet burgeoning interest in standup paddling. Also gaining popularity are SUP boot camps where, in addition to teaching SUP fundamentals, students actually do crunches, pushups and other floor exercise moves on their SUP boards in the water.

Industry-leading SUP board and paddle manufacturer C4 Waterman has been exploring the fitness market since the company launched in 2006, especially since co-founder Brian Keaulana discovered that the sport gives him the same workout in one hour as eight hours surfing. Keaulana, a legendary waterman appearing in such films as the surf documentary "Riding Giants," paddled with Lance Armstrong as the pro cyclist used standup paddling as part of his training regimen as he prepped to come out of retirement and compete in the 2009 Tour de France.

While it's always best to get started with some professional lessons, Keaulana's partner and fellow C4 Waterman co-founder Todd Bradley offers these tips to optimize the fitness benefit from standup paddling:
1. Be sure to get a proper length paddle to reduce the possibility of back or shoulder injuries. A general rule is the paddle should be six inches taller than you but there could be reasons meriting longer or shorter paddles.
2. Proper stance is feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, just enough to hide your toes when you look down.
3. Proper stroke technique including power strokes to get the board up and planing, then smaller strokes to maintain momentum.
4. Engage your core muscles- don't paddle with your arms.
5. Vary your workout by increasing or decreasing stroke rate, use paddles with bigger or smaller blades, and for those with access to multiple boards, use different size boards.
Bradley is quick to point out kids love SUP too, so the sport offers a fun, cool way to spend 60 minutes at play as recommended by First Lady Michelle Obama's newly launched national anti-obesity campaign, Let's Move.

C4 Waterman is also about to release what it's calling the iGym a SUP fitness training board that can be used on land. Meanwhile, use C4's online search tool to locate standup paddle dealers across North America.

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Lee Hart

Todd Bradley
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