If you've spent any time on the beaches of Salisbury, Seabrook or Hampton this summer, you've likely experienced what may have felt like a hallucination when a person in the distance appeared to be walking along the surface of the ocean.
The newest craze causing these mistaken hallucinations, stand-up paddleboarding, is quickly gaining popularity along both fresh and salt-water shores. One of the fastest growing sports in Hawaii and California, stand-up paddleboarding, according to Seabrook's Zapstix Surf Shop employee James Morse, has become more popular than surfing at the local level in recent weeks.
Last summer, I gave the new sport a test workout, at the urging of Peter Sleight, founder of Everactive health and fitness coaching.
Since it was my first experience with the sport, Sleight and I agreed that the calm waters of Walden Pond in Concord would be a better locale than the ocean.
I was primed for a workout that is widely described as a core-killer. Minutes after I met Sleight and his training partner, John Furey, the latter of the two attempted to calm my nerves by sharing that his 72-year-old mother had recently completed her first paddleboarding session without falling once.
Since the temperature was relatively cool for the 6 a.m. workout, Sleight advised me to wear a T-shirt to keep warm. My surfboard was slightly wider and longer than an average surfboard. As I pushed from the shore in knee-deep water, I laid atop the board as if I were preparing to catch a wave.
Feeling slightly unbalanced, I walked my feet to the middle of the board — feet shoulder-width apart — and set my balance. Before I knew it, I was standing on water.
From that point forward, I don't remember feeling any anxiety about the potential for capsizing on my board. It was a relatively steady feeling, almost like standing on the floor of a moving sailboat.
Sleight and Furey shared the technique, demonstrating paddling variations that worked varying core muscles. Standing upright and paddling focused the tension to the shoulders. Squatting and paddling worked the legs and abdominal muscles. My instructors even dropped to their stomachs on their respective boards and churned out 10-12 pushups before holding the plank position on their respective boards.
I passed on that portion of the workout.
Still, I felt the tension in my shoulders, back and obliques during the workout, and even more so the next day. Like any workout, paddling can be completed at varying intensity levels. I would imagine it is noticeably more difficult in the ocean, where waves affect the balance.
On the other hand, paddlers can likely go for hours at a leisurely pace on ponds or lakes, taking in views from an upright position. Once again, for those who are beyond my level of expertise, paddleboarders can take to the ocean for great views of incoming waves and paddle-generated momentum before riding waves in the standing position.
Pluses: The workout gives a feeling of invincibility — almost like you're floating on water.
Minuses: Although I didn't fall, it's always a possibility, and getting back on the board isn't the easiest endeavor.
Humbling moment: Sleight shared that his small children were able to do 360s on the paddle board. I tried and failed, nearly taking a dip.