Stay active this summer by trying your hand at these open ocean activities
Whether you’re at sea or on a lake, you can try your hand at any number of water-based activities to keep active and have some fun while doing this December holiday. Here are three of the less conventional options, all of which offer a wide variety of fitness benefits.
Stand up paddle boarding
Stand up paddleboarding (SUP) is a fun, easy way to play in the water that requires minimal equipment. What’s even better is you can paddle on almost any water surface, from the sea to a lake, as you don’t need waves or a current. SUP is also a great full body workout and is fast becoming a favourite cross-training activity for a growing number of athletes.
Choosing the correct SUP equipment is mainly based on the paddler’s weight and experience. The more experienced and lighter paddlers will choose narrower boards while novice paddlers should choose a board that is wider and flatter as it provides more stability. When choosing your paddle make sure it’s about 6” to 8” taller than you are.
Here are a few useful tips to help you master the art of SUP:
- Your feet should always be parallel and hip-width apart.
- Always try to place yourself perfectly centred between the edges of the board.
- Keep your toes facing forward, your knees bent and your back straight.
- Use your head to balance and not your body.
- Keep your head and shoulders steady and upright, and shift your weight by moving your hips.
- Always try to stare out into the distance – looking down at your feet will throw you off-balance.
SUP is perfect for an overall body workout because you’re using your legs and engaging your core in balancing on the board, while also improving your upper body strength and cardiovascular fitness while you paddle. You can also make your workout more intense by taking your SUP into the waves or paddling against a current.
Although SUP can be quite strenuous it’s actually a low impact exercise, which makes it ideal for runners who need to take a break to recover from injuries, but still want to do some cross-training over the holiday. SUP is also one of the best ways to burn off those extra holiday calories without the threat of serious injury.
Surf kayaking is another great open water activity to try out on your holiday. It may take some time to grasp the skills needed to manoeuvre through the surf in a kayak, but there are a number of operators who offer kayak tours if riding waves is not your thing.
Surf kayaks are made of fibreglass, unlike white water kayaks, which are made of plastic. They tend to be curved at the nose and flat at the back. This design allows the kayak to reach high speeds without the need for big waves. It also makes them slightly easier to handle than canoes. The act of paddling in a seated position also offers an exceptional workout, and not just for your arms and back. Your trunk and leg muscles also get a workout, along with your cardiovascular system. As your technique improves you will find that your legs begin to help more with trunk rotation, which is where you generate your power and speed while paddling.
Windsurfing combines the disciplines of sailing and surfing. Windsurfers can be found on a variety of waterways, but mainly frequent beaches. Windsurfing is done using a surfboard-type board with a movable mast attached to it. A windsurfer stands upright on the board and controls the sail with a boom in order to catch the wind and manoeuvre around the surface of the water.
This is probably one of the more technical open water activities to try and master as you need an understanding of the surf and the wind to be able to do it competently.
The basic techniques required for windsurfing are:
- Always look up.
- Don’t look down at your feet as you’ll lose your balance.
- Keep your arms straight and your knees bent.
- Keep your back straight and use your bodyweight to resist the power of the sail.
There are also some important variables to consider when it comes to choosing a board, like the width and volume of the board, the material used to make it (epoxy, fibreglass or poly), the type of sail (soft, raft or camber-induced) and its material (dacron, mylar or monofilm). A basic tip to remember is, the bigger boards in terms of volume (litres) are for beginners, while the thinner boards are for more advanced windsurfers. Lighter winds will also need bigger sails. However, your local surf shop should offer lessons and some guidance on setting up and equipment selection before you head out into the breakers.