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Sunday Favorites: Yoga on the Bay

Asley goes tries a headstand on the SUP

FORT MYERS -- If you are willing to invest in a stand up paddle board, you might as well get some of use out of it.

That was the advice my friend, Brenda, offered when I hesitated to take my brand new SUP on a road trip to Fort Myers.

She was right. SUP's are expensive. A board and carbon paddle combo runs around a grand.

When I first purchased my paddle board, the salesman who helped me strap it to the roof of my 1990 Geo Prism said, “Congratulations you now own a board worth more than your car.”

But this was my first long-distance SUP excursion. When I asked Brenda why she had chosen to book us for a yoga class so far away, she replied simply that “the water is really pretty there.”

Last time I checked there was plenty of clear blue water all up and down the West Coast.

I chose the Bote Board Flood model because one, it looked amazing with the bamboo inlay and two, it was advertised as weighing 25 pounds, so I figured I could easily maneuver it alone. However, 10 feet 6 inches is an awkward length for all 5 feet 4 inches of me to handle – plus I refuse to believe that thing only weighs 25 pounds!

The Geo when it's  loaded with the SUP.

Brenda helped me hoist it onto some Styrofoam blocks and tie it down with straps. I had learned the hard way the previous weekend that there has to be at least one twist in the strap to avoid an awful droning noise that's loud enough to drown out the radio, even at full blast.

As soon as everything was ready to go, we jumped in the car and headed to our destination. I told Brenda I would be more comfortable driving back roads, but she insisted on I-75 because we “were running late.” Brenda is always running late.

Driving down the interstate in a 90s Geo at 60 mph (it won't make it to 70 mph) is scary enough, but I was petrified that the board on top would either fly off and cause a multi-car pile up, or catch air and lift the car off the ground like some warped version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

We heard at least a dozen horns as the flew past us in the left lane, and at least one personable traveler shot us the bird.

By the time we got there, the whole class was waiting on us. I wanted to kiss the ground.

Brenda and I pose on one of the paddle boards.

In most cases, SUP yoga instructors will give their pupils the option of either renting a paddle board for around $35, or bringing their own and receiving a discounted rate of $10-15.

Brenda rented, I unloaded.

The class in Fort Myers was a lot more organized than other SUP yoga classes I've been to. The instructor had obviously been aware of the breezy weather and chose a bay location behind some mangroves protecting us from the 20 knots of wind that threatened to blow us out into the channel.

She also had an inventive way to keep us in formation. She put out two 50 yard lines with anchors tied to either end in about 4 feet of water. The line floated and we used mountain climbing clips to latch on. This works much better than the alternative way where instructors make you stick your paddle into the mud and clip on to your paddle. This seems like a logical approach in theory, but SUP's are all about balance and trying to keep your balance while lodging your paddle in the mud is nearly impossible. Instructors often find themselves pausing the session to chase down a runaway student, who unknowingly started drifting out to sea, with no paddle, while in deep meditation mode.

Our instructor told us that most people who take the class are either avid paddle boarders or avid yoga students, but usually not both.

Brenda was the yoga guru, so I looked to her when our instructor yelled out strange positions such as downward dog and goddess.

When we had to get on one foot, I fell in the water. The waves from the splash created a domino effect and half the class ended up in the drink, giving me the stinkeye when they emerged from the saltwater. Had it been a little warmer, I think I would have gotten a very different reaction.

Yoga on a paddleboard is hardly graceful, in fact it's a little awkward and definitely not as sexy as it is on dry land, however, it is much more pleasant to the senses. Mediation is a lot easier when you are taking in the scent of the ocean rather than the smell of an armpit in a stuffy gym.

The class lasted an hour and Brenda and I went home refreshed, relaxed and ready for a new day of work the next morning.

“Let's take the long way home,” I told Brenda.

“We can't,” she said. “I have dinner plans and I'm going to be late.”


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