Surfing has been the longest constant in my life. I’ve been surfing since I was 9 years old- riding my skateboard to the beach with my brother.
I’ve always been partial to surfing as my preferred form of exercise- it’s the most fun, intense, and great cardio. Being out in nature and the sun has incredible health benefits, too. Nowadays, the time I get to spend in the ocean is more about atmosphere than only riding waves.
Lately, I’ve been Stand Up Paddling (SUPing) more than surfing. SUP is another great workout. You engage a lot of different muscle groups, its great cardio, and you’re usually in the sun, soaking up vitamin D. In San Diego, the water will drop to about 55 degrees in the winter, and when I SUP I’m almost always wearing my trunks. Unless the air is really cold and it’s early morning, no wetsuit insulating my body, but sometimes I wear a hat.
Do I fall? Sometimes, but its pretty rare. And when I do, the cold plunge & saltwater are quite refreshing. I can naturally take advantage of cold thermogenesis, and the salt water enhances my skin’s microbiome.
SUP is something almost anyone can do. My 68+ year old mother-in-law SUPs. My kids love to play around on a SUP. You can SUP almost anywhere there’s water: lakes, rivers, oceans, estuaries, inlets.
The size of board you have- measured in volume of liters, will determine how stably you are while standing. Most boards will range from 180 liters to over 300 liters. For reference, a “shortboard” for surfing is about 30 liters, so there’s a lot more board beneath your feet to help balance and stabilize. I ride Surftech.
To paddle, stand upright, forward facing, and ”dig” into the water. Keep your arms straight and engage your core. your abs, arms, and thighs should burn. If this happens you’re doing it right. The more you practice the more your endurance will build.
SUP gives you a new perspective on the ocean. You see things often missed as you can look down into the ocean. You can easily go far offshore and look back at the beach you’re often familiar with. And, yes, you can ride waves, too. but due to the large nature of these boards they are much harder to maneuver, so be careful for others in the lineup.
It’s also very peaceful being further out in the ocean, with meditative oceanic sounds. No talking, no cars, no cell phones. just you, the ocean, and some marine life.
In terms of exercise, it’s both cardio & high intensity. You’re mostly engaging your core- abs, glutes, legs, shoulders, forearms and arms. But you can get going so fast its firmly in the realm of High Intensity cardio- sometimes called HIIT (high intensity interval training). I will usually go for about 30-40 minutes, but went for 60 minutes the other day, and usually my heart rate is in Zone 5.
Easy to see why so many have taken up SUP recently, even if you’re doing a casual stroll on a body of water. Less known, SUP has been around since 3,000 B.C.