- Kim Sherwood tests her balance and core strength with paddleboard yoga.
Stand-up paddleboarding can be much more than just leisurely floating around on calm water, especially if you take a class with Lacy Gannon and Sara Murphy of SUP Spokane.
Gannon and Murphy met through teaching yoga at the same studio, Mellow Monkey in Spokane Valley. They decided to take their craft to the water, and share it with anyone in the area looking for a uniquely challenging workout.
Fear not; they don't dive right into yoga poses as soon as soon as students meet them at the water. Gannon and Murphy say that safety and proper technique are the most important parts of the lesson.
Before getting out onto the water, they make sure that the members of every group, usually eight to 10 paddlers, are familiar with the equipment; Gannon says it's common for people to buy paddleboards without knowing the proper size or technique.
If the board is too short, Murphy explains, the paddler will have a hard time finding their center of gravity. Too long, and one could get tired hauling it around. The right board depends on the paddler's height and weight.
Gannon also points out a common misconception: "Thinking they have to stand up the entire time, just because it's called a stand-up paddleboard."
She and Murphy begin the lesson sitting down, with their grip toward the bottom of the paddle. It's important for paddlers to bend their elbows at 90 degrees, with both hands on the paddle, she says, creating what she calls the "paddler's box" for the most efficient stroke.
Then they shift to a kneeling position and choke up on the paddle. But standing up on the board is not the final challenge.
Gannon says that yoga on a paddleboard demands more focus.
"Every single pose is a balance pose. You are working every muscle in your body," she says. "If you look at a bird flying by, you could fall in the water."
Gannon says that beautiful views of lakes and rivers complement the workout perfectly, as every pose offers a different perspective.
Lessons are different group to group, she says. While yoga was their original venture, now Gannon and Murphy instruct mixed-exercise workouts and races on the water.
"We will do planks, push-ups and squats on the paddleboard," Gannon says. "It makes it a lot more challenging."
She has also made it a personal goal to help grow the sport of stand-up paddleboard racing, teaching people racing techniques and encouraging them to participate in local races.
"It's such a small sport up here. We're trying to build it up, and get people to know it's just fun," Gannon says. "It's like a fun run, but you're hanging out on the water and the beach."
Many of the customers of SUP Spokane (supspokane.com) are ready for casual racing by the end of the first lesson, she says.
A common lesson involves paddling up gentle parts of the Spokane River and drifting back down, but Murphy says she wants to do more exploring this year. Last summer, she found good spots for paddling at Marshall Lake, northwest of Newport, and some smaller lakes in the mountains where the water is calm enough for a quiet yoga session.
She says one of her favorite places to do yoga is by a waterfall at Horseshoe Lake, west of Nine Mile Falls.
"It is so peaceful, because there is no technology and you're one with nature," Murphy says. "People find a whole new level to their meditation."
Murphy and Gannon began offering stand-up paddleboarding lessons in 2014.
"We ended up designing a trailer and getting 10 paddleboards with all the gear," Murphy says. "We made a Facebook page and a web page, and blew it up from there."
Since then, Gannon says they've been instructing, offering lessons for around 30 people per week for $40 a lesson, during the warm months, at lakes and rivers all around Spokane. They also give big groups a discount for signing up together.
Beyond paddleboarding and yoga instruction, the 35-year-old Murphy is a mother of two, studying education at Whitworth University and hoping to become a primary school teacher. Gannon, 33, is also a personal trainer.
Murphy says that she and Gannon are "sister moms," swapping their kids back and forth between school, sports and other activities.
She says she used to be terrified of the water, but Gannon helped her get into water sports.
"Now, our kids have been raised on the water," Murphy says.
She and some of her students have brought their kids along for the lessons. Murphy says that stand-up paddleboarding can be challenging, but she and Gannon keep the competition light. Anyone interested, says Murphy, should rent a board from them and take a lesson on the river.
"It is one of the greatest adventures," she says. ♦