By Pete Williams
One of the many attractions of SUP is that it’s both a water sport and a fitness regimen in one. Getting out on the water can be a challenge, however, when busy schedules, limited daylight, or foul weather intervene.
Enter the Vasa Ergometer, a compact training tool that enables paddlers of any ability to maintain paddling-specific endurance and improve stroke power indoors. For more than 20 years, Olympic and college swimmers, triathletes and surfers have relied on the Vermont-based Vasa’s dryland training devices, including the well-know Vasa Trainer swim bench. Their “Erg” provides an adjustable airflow resistance to deliver a smooth, realistic stroke throughout a swimmer’s range of motion.
With the growth of SUP in recent years, Vasa has attracted more interest from paddlers, who can swap out the Vasa swim paddles for a Vasa-produced SUP paddle handle. By adjusting airflow resistance, paddlers can vary the intensity of their workouts, in effect simulating upwind, downwind or neutral conditions.
The recent SUP phenomenon is still new enough that many paddlers don’t think of dryland training the way swimmers do. Or focus on stroke technique as often as golfers. Or search for inclement weather options the way cyclists do by mounting their bikes on indoor trainers. The Erg can fill all three of those needs.
Swimmers typically pair the “Erg” with a bench, either an attached version with the standard model or a separate bench for the wall-mounted SpaceSaver Erg. Instead of a bench, SUP users can mimic the instability of the water by standing on an Indo board, Step 360 Pro, BOSU ball, Theraband pad, or the popular SURFSET board. Standing flat-footed on the floor, of course, is enough to mimic flat water.
Paddlers might be surprised to discover how much training on the Erg feels like being on the water, lack of scenery aside. But where the Erg has an advantage over the outdoors is with its optional Power Meter, which provides precise measurements of right side vs. left side power (watts), pace, time, distance, and stroke rate. It’s much easier to keep track of distance and time with the Erg that it is on the water with a wristwatch and buoys.
Every Vasa Erg functions the same way, whether it’s the Vasa Kayak Erg, Vasa Swim Erg or the wall-mounted SpaceSaver Erg. Every Vasa Erg configuration can be used for SUP, kayak and canoe paddling, as well as for surf paddling, swimming, and functional training. Fans of suspension trainers will find the Erg can be used for most any multi-plane movement.
Priced between $1,299 and $2,299 depending on the configuration you select, the Vasa Erg is about the cost of a race board. If you don’t need the power meter display, you’ll save $300.
But don’t think of it is as the equivalent of a cyclist putting a bike on a trainer. We’ve tested the SpaceSaver Erg over the last four months and have been surprised how often we turn to it, even living in Florida, where SUP is a year-round pastime. We’ve used it for 30-minute interval workouts, functional training, race preparation, swim workouts, and even for longer paddle sessions when Florida’s rain and notorious lightning have canceled scheduled outings on the water.
When used in a mirrored room, the Vasa Erg also provides paddlers with stroke feedback they wouldn’t get on the water without video. Without a paddle blade, it’s easier to focus on stroke technique, especially reach and rotation, than it is outdoors, especially when using the Erg while standing on a flat surface. And if you’re a SUP instructor working with students beyond the beginner stage, the ability to stand right next to them can be more effective for providing tips while they paddle on the Erg compared to demonstrating on the water.
Of course, nothing beats paddling outdoors. Then again, paddlers might turn to the Erg as an inclement weather substitute only to find it it’s more valuable as a performance-enhancing tool.
[author ]Pete Williams is an award-winning writer, a NASM-certified personal trainer, and the co-author of Paddle Fit (with Brody Welte) and Core Performance (with Mark Verstegen). An avid paddler, he lives in Clearwater, Florida.[/author]