Just imagine this: you are in the middle of the sea or lake, looking at the beauty around, while sitting on a board in the middle of your prefered body of water. You feel the sun touching your skin, the wind, the clouds, your breathing and your heart beating hard and fast. You are recovering from your last effort and waiting to catch your breath to start all over again.
Does it sound like fun? What if I told you that you could be getting fitter beyond your wildest dream while having lots of fun? You could lose fat and increase muscle mass, while integrating and strengthening your core and healing compensations through your body.
That is what I got myself into without knowing: SUP or Stand Up Paddling.
While walking in a beach in Koh Tao, Thailand, I noticed the boards lying down on the beach ready to be rented. A day later I tried it and fell in love with the sport instantly.
At first I was afraid that my balance wasn’t good enough. My balance had never good due to all my old
injuries and compensations (my hips, pelvis, shoulders, etc., weren’t aligned properly).
Unknown to me was the simple fact that SUP is a phenomenal rehabilitating exercise! It is also a sport that can be practiced by people of all ages, health levels and abilities, since there are boards for every level, for every body type, weight and even the kind of water you will be paddling on.
Obviously all the boards for rent were for beginners, so it wasn’t challenging to stand on it and start paddling my way around the bay.
Blue skies and turquoise waters covering coral reefs are a thing of beauty, especially if your point of view is higher that what you can usually have when you are swimming or snorkeling. The feeling that you are “walking on water” is incredible, and the fact that you can go anywhere with it, just makes the experience that more complete.
The one thing I noticed was that I had instant feedback from the water. I immediately started feeling how my feet, ankles, knees, hips, core, shoulders and head were reacting to my board’s movement.
Then I definitely noticed how some toes, and a foot were working “too hard”, while the rest of the toes and the other foot were doing very little effort. My right knee was also very tense and over active, and my right shoulder was more elevated than usual, compensating for the lack of mobility of my right hip. So here I was, exercising while getting feedback of the shortcomings of my body. Now I had found a sport that was fun, gave me an excuse to travel often to beautiful places and was going to help me to resolve the compensations that my body had acquired over the years!
How? Well, as I would understand later, SUP is the perfect activity to complement the method I have developed to get rid of compensations in the body. With enough body awareness, I was able to relax the points of tension in my body, while paddling, which allowed muscles that were usually overpowered by bigger-stronger, dominant muscles, to work. This then allow the weaker muscles to get stronger without much effort other than relaxing the dominant muscle with your mind! Thus ingraining a new movement pattern in a very dynamic, integrative and wholesome manner.
And because there is not one muscle that isn’t working while you are paddling on a moving board, all the small changes happening in the body are being “understood” and “integrated” by every other part of your body.
From that day I paddled every day, twice a day, and even before leaving the island, I knew where I was going to keep SUPping in Bangkok.
That happened 6 months ago and I haven’t looked back. I travel continuously to a beautiful beach between the beaches of Jomtien and Sattahip, where I rent different boards from a great shop called Amara Watersport (read my review here), where Amara, former Olympic windsurfer and world champion and her husband Craig, a great Australian paddler and microbiology geek, make me feel at home every time I am there.
I am of the believe that, to truly enjoy an activity, one has to learn the intricacies of technique, and develop it as much as possible, so the activity becomes pleasurable, rather than painful and inefficient. So I took a few lessons with Craig, that got me to understand an amazing fact: when you are paddling, your body is responding to the effects of what the Moon’s gravity is doing to Earth. It is a cosmic event, that you can enjoy with every wave you allow to pass through you.
And that is another beneficial aspect of SUP, you learn that, to stay stable on the board, you need to do 4 things:
- Relax, don’t resist. Let the wave come and go without trying “not to move”.
- Keep your vision ahead. Choose a point in the horizon and paddle towards it.
- Keep your head centered in relationship to the board. The chances of falling are now pretty low.
- Be thought free. If you think about not falling you will fall, if you instead keep focused on the action itself you won’t..
Now, if those aren’t lessons you can apply in your daily life, then I don’t know what better lessons you can have. Relax and accept what comes your way, keep your eyes on the price, working towards it and making sure you have no room for destructive thoughts that only takes away your energy and determination. For last, keep an even head, centered, without room for arrogance, or distractions that will take you away from accomplishing your vision.
So there you are, those are some of the many reasons I love and try to SUP as often as I can.
It is also worth mentioning, the deep appreciation one develops for nature, the understanding you get about the winds, the waves, the way the ocean behaves, the animals that live in it. Also it is a sport that help building new friendships and new social circles. It takes you away from glancing your phone, and gets you back to a more primal, natural way of life that will enhance the quality of your life.
I hope this article can spark your curiosity so next time you have the opportunity, you jump on a board and paddle your way to a horizon full of dreams and good health.