It wasn’t a matter of if I fell in the water, I thought, but when.
I had been hearing about standup paddle boarding (SUP) for some time. An offshoot of surfing, it involves standing upright on a large flat board and propelling oneself with a paddle. It always looked appealing, but it also struck me as the kind of thing that would inevitably end with me doing a face plant directly into the water. Given those concerns, it seems natural that my first attempt at SUP would involve not only standing up on a dodgy flotation device, but doing freaking yoga on it.
Fitness Fusion in Bristol began offering SUP yoga workshops this summer, and in the latest of her many attempts to kill me, my editor had signed me up. It seems like a natural fit for Fitness Fusion, which stays true to its name by offering a smorgasbord of hybrid classes like Bristol Barre Blender, Spin-Yasa and Afro-Cuban Muay Thai Rollerblading (ok, I made up that last one). Proprietor/trainer Danielle Rogers decided to take Fitness Fusion out on the water by enlisting Lauren O’Connell of Charlestown’s Elemental Equilibrium Yoga for workshops on Bristol Harbor.
I was joining a class of five women, along with Danielle; it was encouraging to learn that none of them had attempted SUP yoga, and a couple of them had never set foot on a standup paddle board before. Some of my classmates reassured me that when I inevitably fell into the water I would most likely not be alone.
One of the virtues of SUP touted by its fans is that it’s a relaxing activity. That’s not exactly true. While it would certainly be fair to describe a leisurely paddle along the harbor as a tranquil, low-stress way to spend an afternoon, at no point when you’re standing upright are you able to relax. Your core and legs are constantly engaged in maintaining balance and even your feet and toes do a surprising amount of work. Furthermore, the constantly changing conditions in the water require your mind to be intently focused at all times on what your body is doing. You want to relax? Get an inner tube.
After traveling a little way up the harbor, we began looking for a calm area in which to drop the small, eight-pound anchors attached to our boards and begin our yoga session. Our initial choice, a little further out from the shore, proved too deep to properly anchor ourselves, which resulted in the cruel irony of having to set up right next to Quito’s, the smell of fried seafood tempting us like a siren song calling sailors toward rocky shores.
The yoga session, as you might imagine for people perched warily atop unsteady surfaces, stuck to fairly basic standing and kneeling poses like warrior, downward dog and tiger. Clearly, this was neither the time or the place for daring twists and inversions – though one show-off did successfully balance on her hands and perch her knees on her elbows for just long enough to execute a triumphant crow pose.
It should go without saying that yoga done on a standup paddle board is more difficult than it is on solid ground, and if it doesn’t the feeling in your core will let you know, but it’s surprising how quick the novelty of SUP fades into the background when you’re focused on a pose. Before long we were no longer thinking about staying on the board – we were just concentrating on executing a solid bridge pose.
After an hour or so of yoga we hoisted anchor and began our paddle back to shore. As we made our way, I found myself falling increasingly farther behind my classmates. How were these fellow newbies suddenly cutting through the water with such ease? It was only when I arrived back at the boat launch and became stuck about 10 feet from the shore that I realized the problem: a wave had knocked my anchor back into the water early in our journey and I had dragged it most of the way back. I just chalked it up as a more strenuous workout. The important thing was that I never fell off.
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