Surf’s down? Try Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga

Stand Up Paddleboard yoga is popping up on Ontario’s lakes and Vancouver’s ocean bays—and Kelowna hasn’t been missed in its spread.

It’s a grid, make sure you have contact at each point.

Check. Have points in grid—two hands, two knees.

Now, when you’re balanced—good, you’re doing it—rise to your knees and paddle forward. The more you paddle, the more balanced you are…it’s like riding a bike.

It’s strange how everything is allegedly like riding a bike. Especially things that don’t seem nearly as easy as riding a bike.

Now, let’s stop here, and go into some poses.

Apparently clutching on for dear life isn’t a pose in the yogi guidebook, but it’s unlikely the original yogis tried out a downward facing dog on a floating plank, either.

OK, maybe we’ll start with something easy. Let’s get into child’s pose.



I’m not the most graceful land-dweller, but as a devout water-baby I couldn’t wait to wade into the lake to try Stand Up Paddle Board Yoga.

It’s popped up all over the country, with classes rolling out from Ontario’s lakes to Vancouver’s ocean bays.

And, of course, Kelowna hasn’t been missed in its spread across Canada.

The valley’s warm, calm waters offer the perfect setting for the burgeoning trend, and those first to try have been bending, twisting and getting their zen on in smooth pockets on the lake for weeks.

“It’s paradise out here,” said Sarah Wolton, of hotbox yoga.

“And SUP yoga is more paradise.”

Wolton and her partner Chris Bedford brought the floating form of yoga to Kelowna in recent weeks.

As Bedford explains, it’s the perfect fit for a city that loves its hard bodies and outdoor sports—and there’s no better ambassador for it than Wolton.

Her ability to contort into a human pretzel while balancing on a paddle board is nothing short of awe inspiring.

When she took me out for an introductory paddle this week, families gathered around the beach to watch her while children pointed.

One would think it’s pretty ego bolstering, but Wolton pointed out that’s the antitheses of SUP yoga.

“In yoga you learn how to apply being humble in practice,” she explained.

In SUP yoga, that understanding is immediate.

Nothing puts a person in the present like trying simple yoga poses in a new environment, like the waters of the lake.

“Simple movements are more challenging on the water, so you really have to focus on the basics, like breathing and engaging your core,” she said.

If that’s not enough, there’s nothing awakens your humility like taking a spill in front of a rapt audience, while trying to get into a warrior pose.

Unlike traditional yoga, fortunately, mirth and chitter chatter are welcomed, explained Laura Martini, who started a SUP yoga class out of the Eldorado Hotel this summer.

“We have one to two people fall in the water per class,” she said. “Yeah, it’s cold, but that’s it and that’s OK.”

It’s cause to have a chuckle, discuss the fall and get back onboard for another pose.

And, like Wolton, Martini finds it challenging.

There’s a steep learning curve, for sure,” she said.

“I’m still getting used to it.

“It’s like doing yoga, while balancing on a bosu ball.”

While there are a raft of converts singing the praises of the newest trend in yoga, there’s one person who sings them loudest and has basically  been credited with bringing it to western Canada, not to mention Kelowna.

Kristy Wright, the co-owner of Stand Up Paddle Vancouver and  SUP Yoga, a certified yoga instructor and Lululemon ambassador, started paddleboarding when she was in Hawaii on vacation, nearly three years ago.

She was an instant fan, but the yoga development came later.

When she returned home, her business partner Coreena Fletcher, after reading an article about yogis moving to boards, called her up and said, “We should do this in Vancouver.”

So, they did.

It’s been a hit, for all the reasons local instructors Wolton and Martini pointed out.

Wright and Fletcher, however, have worked out some of the kinks, allowing all their converts to do sun salutations in peace.

In addition to being ambassadors and offering teacher training, they’ve created tools, like an anchor, that means there will be no budding yogis lost at sea anytime soon.

And, some of those tools were added to local arsenals when Wright came to Kelowna on Canada Day weekend to get a group of instructors, including Wolton, up to snuff.

“It’s fabulous there,” she said. “It’s an ideal place. The lakes are beautiful and there are so many access points. You could paddle out from a dock or a beach.”

The lake is as accessible as she’d like the yoga to be in years to come.

While it’s her business, Wright sees it as more than that, too.

She believes it restores balance in otherwise busy lives, noting its beauty lies with the fact you’re not tucked away in a studio; you’re connecting with the elements.

“You put people on or near water and it’s very calming,” she said.

While brains find the meditative sweet spot, the body starts working in an entirely different way, too.

“The paddling is a core workout,” she said, explaining there are fast twitch and larger slow twitch muscles.

The fast twitch muscles are activated on a paddle board without even realizing it, because they’re working to get your body stabilized while taking on new movements. No cheating, either. Lose focus on the balance, and you walk the plank—like it or not.

“You find balance between effort and surrender,” Wright said.

It’s a concept that’s difficult to articulate to land-bound students, she explained, but nearly immediately understandable once they hit water.

So, next time surf’s down, find a class and see if you can discover inner peace from the elusive balance of effort and surrender. Or at least enjoy a few minutes in the child’s pose.


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