Monday, January 25, 2010



Not as easy as it looks

America, land of the free. A glorious nation where individuals have the right to gorge themselves endlessly on cheap, processed junk passed off as food. In this land of the double cheeseburgers and chili cheese dogs, overweight people of all walks of life are facing a future of health problems, including the many conditions associated with obesity, such as heart disease and diabetes.

As America struggles with their widening waistline’s, it only natural that they turn to Hollywood for weight loss inspiration. The latest craze in the world of health and fitness is the Stand-Up Paddle board, also known as an SUP. Celeb’s such as Jennifer Anniston, Pierce Brosnan, Sandra Bullock, Kate Hudson, and Julia Roberts are just a few examples of high profile actors using SUP’ing to help stay in shape and sculpt a rock hard core. This new health craze is literally “sweeping” the nation.

Stand-Up paddling involves using a large paddle, usually made of aluminum or carbon, to steer and propel a large surf craft that almost resembles a mix between a paddleboard, windsurf board, and surfboard. These boards, which usually begin at about 9’ and can reach lengths of up to 15’. are usually constructed with polyerestene core’s, and protected by glass-reinforced plastic construction which utilizes epoxy. They are quire wide as well about 30 inches, usually weigh 25-30 pounds.

By standing erect and propelling yourself with the kayak-like oar, you can really get these boards going. The trick is finding your balance and learning to switch stances and maneuver your paddle smoothly as you do so. The balance needed to maintain a steady speed and core strength required to turn the board effortlessly is tremendous, and it’s by no means easy.

While the celeb’s have been flocking to the Stand Up Paddle fitness routine in the droves, seasoned watermen haven’t stopped using the method to train and maintain their sea legs. Surf icon Laird Hamilton has helped increase it’s popularity, and big-wave charger Garret McNamara has been known to use the hefty crafts at waves of extreme consequence, such as Oahu’s Pipeline and Tahiti’s Teahupoo.

As the sport grows, so do the crowds, and they are beginning to frequent popular surf spots. With such heavy boards and unwieldy paddles, having Stand-Up Paddlers sharing the lineup with surfers can get a bit treacherous. According to State Lifeguard Blake Anderson, it comes down to making sure those who are enjoying the waves are safe, and for those who are inexperienced and lack proper training, sometimes crowded surf breaks might not be the best place to learn.

“Because of their size, SUP's (like longboards) are not as maneuverable as short boards, so if the user doesn't have a lot of experience they can pose a threat to other water users in tight areas like surf lineups. Also they are very heavy so if someone was to be struck by a board in the water it could do more damage than a traditional short board”, says Anderson of the presence of SUP’s in water populated by surfers and swimmers.

While surfers may have to contend with some dangerous beginning Stand Up Paddlers from time to time, there is a large group of people dedicated to promoting the sport in such a way that the proper etiquette and knowledge can be successfully adopted by those who choose to pursue the sport. Kayak Connection, located next to the Harbor, offers SUP classes, for those interested in staying in shape while enjoying the soothing waters of our beautiful coastline.

They offer 2 hour one time introductory classes as well as two and three part series spread over a few weeks. Each of the classes in a series is 2 hours long. They provide the SUP board and paddle as well as a wet suit, PFD (life jacket), and the experienced instructors, all of whom are CPR/First Aid certified They also offer SUP tours, and they always stress teaching their students all the necessary tools and techniques they’ll need to maintain their skills.

Kayak Connection employee Katrina adds that, “Safety is one of the most important factors we stress. Our paddlers travel in and out of the harbor so it is important to respect the traffic laws of the harbor as well as the general safety rules of the ocean i.e. don't paddle into swim zones, yield to other vessels, etc. We are also very respectful of marine wildlife and always stress keeping the appropriate distance mandated by the Marine Mammal Protection Act at all times”

Pete Stirling, Marketing Manager of Waterman’s sunscreen, is someone who spends his life in the water, surfing, paddling, and from time to time, Stand-Up paddling. His company, Waterman’s sponsor’s some of the top aquatic athletes, studs like Rob Rojas and Chuck Patterson. Stirling believes, like the folks at the Kayak Connection, that misinformation is one of the biggest threat the sport faces as it grows.

“ It’s a cultural problem,” says Stirling, “People with no experience, people who may not be familiar with the ocean, see the SUP’s in the fitness magazine, and then start on rivers and lakes. What’s gonna happens when they paddle out to the ocean, which is raw and unpredictable? Beginners need the proper guidance plain and simple”

For now Stand Up Paddling and it’s enthusiasts are here to stay. Their reach is astounding, with SUP scenes popping up in places like Lake Fulsom and Lake Tahoe. A great workout and according to Santa Cruz Harbormaster Tim Morely, “A great way to get more man powered vessels out in the Monterey Bay”, Stand Up Paddling provides surfers and curious land lubbers a great way to enjoy our local waters without polluting or disturbing our fragile wildlife.

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