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Hop on Board

Get in great shape while having fun on a stand-up paddleboard.

Story by J.L. Thompson + Photography by John Batson

Stand-up paddleboarding is one of the most popular water sports here, and for good reason. It’s not only fun, it’s also a great way to get out and enjoy many beautiful Lowcountry landscapes. It is a great way to get and stay in shape. Paddleboarding has many proven fitness benefits and is well worth doing, just for the fitness benefits alone. It is easier to get fit paddleboarding than many other forms of exercise because it is so much more enjoyable. There are certainly many less fun and interesting ways to stay in shape. Here is what it can do for your body.

Full body workout

Stand-up paddleboarding works out almost every major muscle in your body. Your back, shoulders and arms work to propel you forward. Your core muscles are constantly working to help you keep your balance. Your legs work to stabilize you. Paddleboarding will give you a truly thorough workout, and help you build real, functional strength.


Paddleboarding really gets your heart rate up. The faster you paddle, the better the cardio value of your session. Paddleboarding can bring down your resting heart rate, lower your blood pressure and heighten your overall fitness level. It will also improve your cardiovascular health, and make you less vulnerable to strokes and heart attacks.


Paddleboarding is not something you just do for 10 minutes and then quit. When you go out paddleboarding, you are going on a trip. While you’re having fun, you’re most likely getting a good half hour of exercise. It is very good for building your endurance.


Stand-up paddleboarding works wonders at improving your balance. It makes you practice keeping your balance, and it develops the muscles that help you do it. This muscle development will improve your skills at many other exercises and sports. The balance benefits of paddleboarding are even greater if you do stand-up paddleboard yoga, which will push your skills to a whole new level.

SIZE MATTERS • To determine the correct paddle size, take the rider’s height and add 10 inches. If you’re 5-foot-11 (71 inches), you should get a paddle about 81 inches.

Other benefits

Paddleboarding is a low impact exercise. If you have problems with your joints but still want to stay in shape, then give paddleboarding a try.

• When you paddleboard, you have a wonderful opportunity to get away from all of distractions and aggravations of the modern world and replace them with the soothing beauty of the Lowcountry. Paddleboarding is wonderful for reducing your stress.

Paddleboarding is fun, and when an exercise is fun, you’re more likely to actually get up and do it. You might find that paddleboarding motivates you to exercise more often.

Tips from a local

Dr. John Batson grew up on the water as a competitive windsurfer and remains an avid water sports enthusiast. He shared a few thoughts on stand-up paddleboarding, one of his favorite pastimes.

• It’s a very safe sport and activity for the entire family.

• It offers many health benefits shown in clinical studies (improved balance, improved core strength, improved cardiovascular markers, improved VO2 Max).

• Outside Hilton Head offers SUP sales, rentals, lessons and fitness classes.

• Our local waterways have miles of excellent paddling and many entry points (local boat ramps around Hilton Head Island, Pinckney Island, Bluffton and Beaufort).

• Safety gear checklist: PFD, leash, whistle, sun protection.

• Be aware of boat traffic, currents, winds and oysters. Consider water shoes if around oysters.

• Other possibilities on SUP: Salt marsh trash cleanups, fishing, exploring, yoga and surfing.

Test the waters

Paddleboarding is more than just a way to exercise, it’s a chance to join a fun and rewarding community of paddleboarding enthusiasts. Many paddleboarders love sharing advice and stories and getting together to pursue the sport. Participating in community events and local races could lead you to make some great new friends. The next race for beginners and advanced paddlers is the OluKai Lowcountry Boil Paddle Battle, set for Sept. 12 at Hudson’s Seafood House on the Docks. Last year the No. 1 paddler in the world, Seychelle Webster, was in attendance. To no surprise, she won the female division. The event is part of the Southern Stroke Race Series. Register at

3 local workout spots that beat the gym

Broad Creek, Hilton Head Island The tidal nature of this creek means it never stops changing, so you can visit it over and over again without getting bored. It also means fewer worries, as motorboats try to avoid it.

May River, Bluffton This river runs through the middle of town, so you can be in the hub of all the action and enjoy the water at the same time.

Pinckney Island Paddleboard here to see all the flora and fauna – the island is a wildlife refuge.

Great paddle boarding exercises

Story by Michaela Satterfield

You can adapt your workout to the waves. All you’ll need is your paddleboard for these simple exercises. Do as many reps as you can without breaking form.

Squats on the sea

Start with feet hip-width apart, then go into a deep squat. Keep thighs parallel to the board and elbows on knees, while holding the paddle at chest level with palms facing up. To finish, rise up and stand on toes.

Crunch with a twist

Lie on your back on the board, holding the paddle at thighs. Slowly sit up, while keeping abs engaged and bending knees. Then, twist torso to one side. Repeat the beginning steps and twist torso to the other side to complete one rep.

Paddle pulls

Stand sideways on the board, feet wide. Hold out the paddle with left hand on top and right hand two feet below. Keep the tip of the paddle in the water, blade perpendicular to body. Move the blade through the water by twisting torso to one side, then to the other for one rep.

Shoulder splashers

Get in the water and place hands at about the middle of the board, shoulder-width apart. Push down to slowly lift yourself out of the water until arms are straight, then lower body back into the water.

Superman on a paddleboard

Lie face-down on the board and stretch arms in front of you. Raise arms, chest and feet as high as you can, while bringing arms back until elbows are at a 90-degree angle. Hold for one second, then return to start.