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Paddleboard enthusiast balances yoga with water sports | Longboat Key

Paddleboard enthusiast balances yoga with water sports | Longboat Key

Simply standing up on a stand-up paddleboard?

That’s too easy.

Try standing on your head as the board bobs with the tide. Now that’s a challenge. 

No, that intimidating previous thought isn’t required when taking part in paddleboard yoga, but you will need to know how to swim. Life vests are provided when taking a class, but you can’t lay flat on your back in savasana pose wearing one.

Owner of SUP Yoga SRQ Steph Ouellette says kids can do it as long as they’re strong enough to paddle a big board. The boards aren’t heavy but are specifically designed for yoga, so they’re long enough to stretch out on and wider than normal for added stability. 

There are fiberglass and inflatable models. Either will have a traction pad in the center to prevent sliding off the board while rising into warrior position. 

It’s a quick five to ten minute paddle out to the “yoga studio.” If standing up on the board seems scary, staying down on your knees is another option. The body acts as a sail, so staying low will keep the board at a slower, more controlled pace. 

While other yoga instructors in the area offer paddleboard yoga here and there as a special class, Ouellette’s operation is the only one offering weekly classes on City Island and Longboat Key. 

The wind determines where class will be held. An email is sent out the night before to let students know if they’ll be launching from Ski-A-Rees or Overlook Park. The caveat to a yoga studio with no solid floor is that without a careful, knowledgeable instructor, the class could drift away. 

Students launch from Overlook Park on a Saturday morning. (Photo by Lesley Dwyer)

Boards are attached to a tow line with weighted bags anchoring each individual board to prevent a pile-up of windblown yogis in the mangroves. 

“I’ve got enough experience now that I know,” Ouellette said, “But if I don’t judge the wind correctly, and I don’t put down enough or heavy enough anchors, you get all these people on, and the anchor lines are just getting dragged across the bottom with all your people on it.”

The water’s depth is an additional concern. If too shallow, an inflatable board can pop on an oyster bed. If too deep, anchoring the board is impossible unless you have a dock nearby to tie onto.   

Once anchored, class begins with some basic stretches. As the poses get more complicated, holding one or switching poses can feel dicey as the board rocks. Ouellette offers options ranging from beginner to advanced.

Practicing yoga on the open water adds a level of zen that can’t be found gazing at four walls inside a studio. In downward facing dog pose, Oullette directed the class to notice the upside down mangroves. During the final savasana pose, students were encouraged to hang their limbs off the boards to feel the water on their hands and feet. 

Once the structured class concludes, playtime begins. This is when the brave attempt headstands, and the rest opt for a drink of water or a swim to cool off. After a quick paddle back to shore, all land legs are returned as loose and limber as a pair of jellyfish tentacles.


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