Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Summertime, and the quarantining is easy: Fish are jumping and the lake is still high. At least from the vantage point of a standup paddleboard (SUP)—with a view of blue sky and a lake underfoot, the sound of your oar rippling through the water—the pandemic, however briefly, can simply fade away. SUPing is a perfect aid for summertime decompression, with a built-in social-distancing feature and a rich way to commune with your body, breath, and nature.
If you’ve never supped before, don’t let it intimidate you. If you can do Tree Pose, you can SUP. Much like yoga, SUPing offers a way to help you calm your mind and strengthen your body, albeit immersed in nature’s stunning glory and fresh air. Once you try it out, you’ll be amazed by SUPing’s accessibility and delight. Here are a just a few reasons to take a paddleboard for a spin.
Step into Zen
First of all is the Zen factor—unless you are SUPing on the ocean or a river, lake SUPing is the epitome of shanti, the Sanskrit word for peace. On days with little wind, you glide across the lake, your core steady and your arms fluid, but feeling a sense of effortlessness, akin to the weightlessness of downhill skiing. It’s a moveable meditation: standing, taking in your surroundings with all your senses, finding your center, and letting the tensions in your mind unravel in the silence.
Take a SUP on the Social Side
As mentioned earlier, SUPing is the ideal activity for social distancing. The boards are typically 2-3 feet wide, and, normally, when paddling with a friend, you keep a buffer of water between you. Your board functions as an island, keeping you apart but together. As your body engages in the soothing repetitive strokes, your mind can freely engage, letting conversation unfurl over a backdrop of spaciousness. During lockdown, it’s important to not isolate completely. While you don’t have to keep up with your entire social network, spending quality time with friends you can deeply connect with is a key component of a happy life.
Tap into Water’s Healing Powers
Whether you prefer to SUP alone or with a friend, you will be playing with the element of water. Interacting with bodies of water, it turns out, does something to us. Science has begun to figure out the mechanics of why water feels so restorative to the spirit. An emerging body of studies shows that coastal environments, even more than green spaces (land that is partly or completely covered with grass, trees, shrubs, or other vegetation), improve our health, body and mind. Recent studies have found that areas where people have lots of opportunity to gaze at blue spaces—bodies of water like the sea—are associated with inducing positive mood and reducing negative mood and stress. Bonus: The water’s soundscape and the reflection of light on water add to the general restorative effect.
Mix Up Your Yoga Practice
If you’re inclined to practice some yoga on your board, you’ll find that how you practice on a mat informs how you practice on a board—and vice versa. If your repertoire of poses seemed overly familiar, trying those same poses on a board will bring an instant burst of excitement. Just about any pose you try on your board will feel edgy and unfamiliar—allowing you to savor the beginner’s mind of a newbie yogi all over again. Alternatively, you’re likely to discover that practicing yoga on a paddleboard informs your “mat” practice by exposing any weak links in your balance as well as sharpening your focus. Once you feel comfortable with the basics and you’ve got a steady SUP yoga practice, you might be eager to try more challenging postures on your board.
See also 10 SUP Yoga Poses for Beginners
What to Look For in a Paddleboard
While it’s good to start out by renting a board, in my experience it takes basically an hour for a person new to SUPing to fall in love and want to purchase their own board. To help me explore the pleasures of SUPing, two companies sent me boards which allowed me to get better acquainted with the sport. Here are the highlights of these two particular boards and why they especially lend themselves to an on-water yoga practice.
Body Glove Performer 11
Body Glove’s Performer 11 is a sleek all-round inflatable board with many standout yoga-friendly features. The proportions of the board are designed to be ultra-stable, with a generous length and width that makes it easy to stretch out on. The traction deck pad, made from EVA foam, provides a soft yet grippy feel ideal for yoga. Inflatable boards are more stable than hard boards and easier on the body than the hard epoxy surface of a hard board. One unique feature of this board is the tapered design of the board’s nose, which allows it to cut through wind and chop with an elegant precision. The board’s displacement hull—pointed nose—makes for a faster, smoother glide.
Bic Sport 10’6 Beach Air
Bic Sport Beach Air offers a sleek and stylish stable inflatable board great for cruising as well as experimenting with asanas. The textured deck pad offers plushness plus traction and the surfboard-inspired profile, designed for stability, gives the board an extra secure feel. Bic Sport’s flatter profile and wide planning hull make it ideal for leisure paddling—and extra steady for yoga practice. The shorter board length means the board is very maneuverable and responsive. The bold graphics, durable construction, responsive tracking and overall ease of handling quickly made this board an indispensable go-to.
Both boards come with a travel paddle, hand pump, coil leash, repair kit, and carry-all backpack.