Why I Teach SUP…And Why You Should too!

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I knew I got into teaching SUP for more than just the fact that while some jobs offer corner offices with a window, I get to have an office on top of the glassy, calm waters of my local lake, and be able to teach fun for a living. I knew this line of “work” was going to lead me to some very rad opportunities and some even more rad people. I had no idea of just how many though. Until recently when a women set foot (one real and one synthetic) on my board for a lesson, and her story is sure to inspire you as much as she inspired me.

why I teach sup 3Meet Denise: A 23-year amputee from the hip down since she was a teen when she was diagnosed with bone cancer and forced to lose her leg.

An avid water-lover and watersports enthusiast, Denise has always wanted to try SUP, but wasn’t able to until very recently when she acquired her first water-resistant prosthesis. Having this, she immediately sent me a detailed email ready, willing, and able to finally stand on two feet on a SUP. I was so inspired by her willingness to not let any obstacle, whether physical or mental stand in her way.

So on a cool, May morning Denise, with her step-mother by her side, showed up for their first lesson with a pep in her step, excitement in her eyes, and even her prosthetic toenails painted to match her sound foot. I passionately familiarized her with the board, the paddle and equipment, and how we would start out, and I could sense this was a big moment for her as I started her on her knees. We paddled on our knees for a bit as I asked them both about their lives, kids, and other distracting techniques I have to calm nerves on the water (whoops, now you know my secrets).

And after a bit, I asked them both, “Are you ready to try standing?” Almost in unison, I heard a resounding, “YES!” Denise watched her step-mother stand up and immediately start paddling and felt confident enough to try it for herself. There was a steady, calm determination as she stepped her prosthesis and her sound leg up and the rest, well, I’ll let her tell you in her own words

“Denise H”]My biggest fear was that I’d lose my balance, fall in the water, and maybe quite possibly lose my leg to the bottom of the lake. It was so exciting getting up on the board. My sound leg was totally shaking at first. I think partly nerves and partly trying to maintain balance. After some great tips from Jodelle, though, I was able to figure out the techniques that I’d need to really start feeling more comfortable. It was such an exhilarating feeling to be out there.

“So many people let fear, disabilities, self-judgements, and past experiences hold them back”

why I teach sup 5Denise stood solidly and figured out her proportion of weight on each leg in no time.

Soon the shakiness was gone and it was as if she’d stood on that board forever. She had no idea how inspiring that was to watch. So many people let fear, disabilities, self-judgements, and past experiences hold them back from trying something so freeing, so therapeutic, and so life-changing as SUP can be. Yet, she did not. In fact, she had it on her bucket list of “must do’s” just waiting for that water-resistant leg to help her stand. And just so you know, she did not fall in, nor did she lose her leg to bottom of the lake.

Note: In case there are other amputees who are currently interested in finding a water resistant prosthesis and try SUP for themselves, she company that manufactures Denise’s prosthesis is called Freedom Innovations. Her knee is called “The Plie”.”

This is one of many students I’ve had who inspire me to work on my own fears. One of such was a girl who came to me and said, “I have a horrid fear of water, and I want to conquer this fear by trying SUP.” On her first venture out, she trembled violently, and never stood up because she wasn’t ready. We paddled seated the entire lesson, just to get her used to being on the water. On her next session, she tried paddling on her knees and when her trembling body could no longer take it, we stopped and rested and paddled seated the rest of the time. Each time, her confidence, her bravery, her courage flourished.

why I teach sup 2By the third lesson, she stood for around 5 minutes, shaking intensely, but never fell and never gave up. By the fourth lesson, she stood on her own two feet the entire lesson, with a smile, and sense of actual pleasure, mixed with a new passion. For the first time in her life, water no longer scared her. And the board made her feel safe. It was a true honor to walk alongside someone on their journey to conquer a fear. As an instructor, it was one of the highlights of my career.

And there have been countless others.

A morbidly obese women who finally got past her fear of being in a swimsuit in public and came out and let go of her judgments and learned to be free on her SUP on the water. She now has her own board and paddles regularly on her own.

Then there was the girl fresh out of addiction recovery who said that her SUP experience was literally the best day she had ever had since before her addiction-woes began, even going so far as to say that it gave her a reason to stay on the path.

Another story of a retired office worker, who had never so much as lifted a weight, or ran a mile, yet was determined to get up, and finally did exhausted and sunburnt, after falling on each attempt to stand up, over 20 times. He was living proof of never giving up. What if he has stopped on the 19th attempt?

I could go on about how almost each and every person I take on the water inspires me in one way or another.

And don’t get me wrong, demonstrating sun salutations on a SUP makes for a lovely day at the office, and teaching CrossFit style boot camps on the water is wicked fun, and hosting my SUP and a CUP coffee shop on the water is a tasty way to spend the morning. However, the real reason behind why I teach what I do is that it is an honor to play a small role in someone’s journey towards self-nourishment, self-esteem, self-empowerment, and self-love.

To walk alongside someone as they conquer a fear, scratch off a bucket list, attempt something they never dreamed they would, or just witness someone having fun for the first time in a long time is really what makes me tick as an instructor. Each night before I go to bed, knowing I have a lesson that next morning, there is a little tickle of excitement within me as I wonder to myself, “Who is that I get to have the privilege of meeting tomorrow who will inspire me out there yet again?”

If teaching SUP is ever something you have thought about, then what are you waiting for? You will find this to be truly one of the most rewarding (and uber-fun) career paths you could ever choose. You have the potential to not only inspire, but to be inspired by each and every person who you come into contact with. You have the possibility of being honored to help someone achieve something that’s more important to them than anything else. You have the drive within you to play and to help others learn the value you of play, and that is truly a gift. You have the willingness to help others learn, while yourself learn humbly will learn from their willingness. If it’s SUP you are seeking, then you will not be disappointed.

“Said Noone Ever”]Man, I hated being out on the water today in nature, on my SUP feeling inspired…

If you are seriously considering joining the fastest growing watersport industry to date, then please consider looking into your SUP certification through Paddlefit, a high-quality instructor training program that I am proud to say I am Certified through and even recently I am respectfully-dignified to be one of their instructor-trainer coaches. Check out all their training locations all over the country and find one nearest you at: paddlefitpro.com.

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Fitness Host for SUP TV, ACSM Certified Personal Trainer, PaddleFit Coach Training Instructor, & Certified Nutrition Coach.