I’ve been intrigued by stand-up paddleboarding since the first time I saw it in action while on vacation in California a few years back. It was a funny sight: just a guy standing out in the ocean … floating along … paddling. Huh, I thought to myself.
Flash forward to 2012 and the low-key activity has exploded in popularity in waterways across the country—and I’ve been itching to get on board with the trend. I recently had my chance while in South Beach for the Volvo Ocean Race’s Miami stopover, thanks to the folks at PUMA who let me test out the new board they designed in collaboration with surfer Laird Hamilton. The PUMA Laird Stand-up Paddleboard is inspired by PUMA’s race yacht Mar Mostro, so in addition to looking really cool, it’s super lightweight as it leverages the same carbon-fiber materials used to build the yacht.
When I started my lesson I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had heard SUP is a great core workout and that it can be surprisingly challenging, but I had also heard that some people do it fully clothed and never get wet. I wore my swimsuit as a precaution.
Overall, the whole experience was pretty simple and surprisingly fun. I started on my knees to get my balance, but after a few minutes I wobbled up to a standing position. The hardest part for me was staying on course (why do I keep veering right?) and turning around (I eventually figured out that it’s easy to do this if you just row backwards). The key to staying balanced is to focus on the horizon—if you look down at your feet or let your mind wander you’re more likely to topple over.
As a workout, I wouldn’t call SUP strenuous, though I imagine it would be more challenging in open ocean waters—I stuck mainly to the area around the port. The focus required to stay upright is part of what made SUP enjoyable for me—it’s like a floating meditation, very relaxing! And no, I did not fall in the water. By the end of my 40-minute session I was already plotting my next paddleboard outing—I’m ready to ride the SUP wave all summer long!