Better yet, what’s SUP Yoga? If you keep seeing the letters SUP and wondering what the heck they mean, no, they are not some shortened text lingo. They stand for Standup Paddling, a new craze hitting the shores worldwide – and even right here on the shores of Lake Erie.
I got the opportunity to try standup paddling (SUP) last week with a good yogini buddy of mine, Trisha Yourkvitch. We traveled to Lakeview Park in Lorain, Ohio, to meet up with Jim Lawhead, the owner of Lake Erie Paddlers.
Jim is a long-time surfing aficionado who got introduced to SUP on surfing trips in Hawaii and California and decided to bring this cool new water sport back to the north shore of Ohio. He runs his business out of a surf shop in Lorain, Ohio, and offers SUP lessons, rentals, and excursions at Lakeview Park, the Black River, French Creek, and the Jackalope Cove in Lorain, as well as at locations in Cleveland and Rocky River.
My first experience started with a 15-minute beach tutorial on SUP paddling and balance fundamentals. Then we launched the 11-foot 6-inch by 32-inch Surftech Universal boards into the water and climbed aboard.
I’m thinking all of the yoga helped, but it was incredibly easy to stand up and get my balance. And please know that these boards are five inches thick and long enough that you will feel stable.
Trisha and I paddled into the sunset (literally) with Jim to guide us along, and all I have to say is that this was the most relaxing thing I’ve ever done on a Monday night after work. It was so peaceful out there on the lake gliding along on my board with a warm breeze brushing across my face. My mind stopped racing, and with such an expansive body of water in front of me, it was easy to let go and connect with the beauty of nature all around. The glowing pink sunset was an added bonus, and I quickly slipped into a state of utter spiritual bliss.
After about 20 minutes, I started to turn my board around and could not believe how far out from the shore Trisha and I paddled. Other than the few moments when a small wake kicked up (courtesy of some jet skiers), when I was truly riding the waves on my SUP board, I felt totally safe and at ease. I don’t think I would want to try SUP on a wavy Lake Erie day, but there are plenty of rivers around here that would be much more stable.
One of the reasons I’m not a big fan of kayaking is that I always have a hard time steering my kayak, but on the SUP board I had no trouble staying on course. When those waves kick up, you just bend your knees.
After we got closer to shore, the real fun began when Tricia, Jim, and I started breaking out some yoga poses on our boards. The concept of SUP Yoga has recently morphed into existence, and experienced yogis and yoginis are now taking their yoga practice to the water. Jim is currently working towards his yoga teaching certification, so he is well versed in teaching yoga on the SUP boards. The standing and balance poses were quite challenging, but seated poses on the SUP are awesome. Trisha and Jim both got themselves up into headstand, and I was doing a pretty mean downward dog and reverse plank on mine.
The only bad thing about my virgin SUP experience is that it ended too soon, when the sky got dark and it was time to carry the boards back in. The board I used only weighs 35 pounds, so it was no problem for me to carry it up the beach and a hill for storage.
I can’t wait to try SUP again. I’m dreaming of going out on Lake Erie on a calm morning and practicing some more SUP Yoga – so much so that I think it could get addicting. I’m hoping to get out a few more times before it gets too cold here. It’s a great workout, and you can’t find a better setting!
If you live in northeast Ohio and want to try SUP, please check out the Lake Erie Paddler website, and watch this video featuring a SUP yoga class taught by Jim. No worries about summer coming to an end, Jim tells me he will keep offering rentals and lessons as long as the water temperature is over 60 degrees and then wetsuits can be used when the water is between 45 and 60 degrees.