Stand Up Paddleboarding #MountainDiva Style!

Animas River Days has a parade, so Vanessa and Ingrid had to go down river in costume! photo KCO

As a fitness-obsessed individual, I’m always game to try a new trend (with the exception of Zumba or anything dance-oriented as I feel like a three-toed sloth gettin’ after it on stilts whenever I’m on a dancefloor). When I saw stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) at the 2009 Outdoor Retailer Summer Market (ORSM) on-water demo, I was pretty curious about how I might incorporate this into my land-locked life in Southwest Colorado.

The fact that Laird Hamilton was a pioneer in SUP, and that he’s a complete and total otherworldly bad-ass waterman? Yes, that helped too. (Read about his start in SUP here.)

I don’t live on the North Shore. I live in the Four Corners – the point of intersection of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah – sushi must be flown in daily to be trusted. We don’t see seagulls… at all. Yet, our region comprises many bodies of water – fore

most of which from an accessibility standpoint is our own Animas River.

Soon after I saw SUP at ORSM, I saw locals paddling up and down the Animas River. As a person who reveres cycling, being on the trails and climbing (peaks), and who cut her proverbial “outdoor” teeth as a raft guide, SUP seemed like a perfect cross training activity and a great excuse to get on the river. I quickly ordered a board to get started in this new sport.

Barriers to Entry:

For many years, I wrote about snowshoeing and how “if you can walk, you can snowshoe.” SUP is similar, on flat water. If you can stand up on a board and paddle, you can SUP – I promise. I do believe that there are few athletic barriers to entry for SUP, which is empowering and lends itself well to the discovery of a new outdoor sport.

Gear wise, there are more barriers. There’s the cost of the board (rentals are an options, as is borrowing) and transporting the board. You”ll need a paddle. Apparel is the same as any river sport and can be even simpler by just wearing board shorts, a bathing suit, and flip-flops. I don’t own a deck bag – I use a small capacity Osprey day pack with my phone in a Ziplock bag. A hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and water are non-negotiable items for SUP outings. You do need to live near a body of water, of course. But you don’t have to live in Lahaina – if we can do this in Durango, there are likely more options that you might think exist. Check out this awesome video featuring a regional SUP event hosted by O’Neill, posted by Paddlehigher – it showcases an awesome NYC-based SUP event. Here’s another one from SUP The Mag, highlighting the other coast – Santa Monica pier SUP America tour.

Caloric burn

I hate to even go here, because SUP is so much more than a work out – really! It’s spiritual – it’s social – it’s empowering and it is a great complement to the lower-body sufferfest that is cycling or trail running.

In researching this blog online, it became obvious to me again just how “new” SUP is. I trolled around, looking for information on how to get started, how to incorporate it into a fitness regime. I looked through the usual suspects of online caloric counters and I didn”t see that SUP is really listed. quoted that you burn 500-700 calories an hour, but there’s no body weight assigned to that or  or level of exertion, which gives me pause in terms of believing it.

SUP builds muscle and also makes your abs super strong. Plus, muscles built from this awesome activity burn calories all the live long day – going three times a week, for me, gives me a great, full-body workout and it’s truly fun! You won’t even feel like you’re working out. …

Being on the water brings a peace and an escape, if you will, that truly makes stress fall off of you like, well… water off of a duck’s back. If you’re less stressed, if you’re like me, you’ll eat fewer plates of nachos. Just sayin’.

Muscles worked (courtesy of

“The short answer: Your whole body.

The longer answer: Your entire body gets a good workout while st

and up paddling, but your core muscles (particularly your abs and back stabilizer muscles) get an amazing workout without you realizing it.  Your core is key to balancing on the board, getting you to twist to get that good reach and pulling you through the water.  Your shoulders, back and arms will definitely feel tired after a decent paddle since they are pulling you forward.  Your grip will get stronger from holding onto the paddle.  Even your legs will be worked from standing and balancing for a long period of time (even if you don’t feel it, trust me, or go try to do a leg workout after paddling!).  Lastly, the tiny muscles in your feet work hard to grip and stay steady.”

Workouts to try:

Apparently, this Danny Ching guy is kind of a big deal (read: freak of nature strong 29-year-old paddle board guru). He authored an interval workout featured in Check it out here.


Lest we forget – Mountain Diva’s LOVE gear and here’s a round up of 2013 gear from .

And, oddly, we found a great beginner guide for SUP gear o

n the Mountaineers Books website. There’s also a free downloadable chapter on “River and Tidal Rapids Paddling.” I know that sounds riveting, but it actually was a good clip. Rob Casey apparently was first in the door “writing the book” on SUP with “Stand Up Paddling, Flatwater to Surf to Rivers.” There are videos on the Mountaineers Books site too.

My good friend and “certified SUP guide” Ingrid Foutz, sports

the cutest Lululemon Breeze By Skirt when she’s dropping me on the Animas River.  Why not use SUP as a reason to buy one of prAna’s new (super cute) bathing suits? Here’s a guide to building the perfect suit. Verde client Beyond Coastal makes the BEST (while they pay us to say that, it actually has been tested for years and is truly kick-ass) performance, natural-ingredient Active Formula sunscreens.

Mountain Diva will be posting more SUP articles through the summer. Next up will be a Q&A with Ingrid, a certified fitness trainer and SUP instructor. She”s

so passionate about being on the water (up river, down river and on flat water when home in Durango), that it”s almost impossible to not want to go paddling after you hang out with her. She”s going to bring us into the know on some key technique in

the next couple of weeks. Until then, get out on the water and give SUP a try!

By Kristin Carpenter-Ogden