For those who are unfamiliar with it, stand up paddle boarding, or SUP, can be a sport or leisure activity. Practitioners cruise the surfaces of the ocean, lake or river and other waterways on boards that look like surfboards but are longer, wider and more stable. While some SUPers do use their boards for riding waves, many rely on the long paddles for propulsion and steering – much in the way that gondoliers pilot their craft. SUP brings people of all ages and levels of fitness out on the water for exploration, exercise or simple relaxation.
While SUP is not new to Okinawa, one new company is providing a few added layers of convenience and exercise activities that perfectly connect with the peace and quiet of fresh air and gentle ocean waves.
Oki-SUP's founder and president Rebecca Cohen wears all of the hats in the multifaceted business she has created. “We do almost everything related to SUP,” she explains. “We conduct ongoing weekly classes or private lessons, and we conduct tours for groups ranging from one to 10 people. We do a number of fitness and yoga classes, all on SUP.”
Cohen started practicing yoga almost 20 years ago as part of a physical therapy regimen. In 2010, she had started her own yoga school “from scratch” and began training yoga teachers. She picked up SUP yoga a few years later and has now integrated her two passions perfectly in subtropical Okinawa.
How does one join?
Most Oki-SUP classes and groups start at Kadena Marina. “Our classes are open to anyone,” says Cohen. “You can pay on arrival at the dive shop, or purchase packages in advance.” Top quality boards are available if one doesn't have their own. Depending on the kind of class or knowledge level of the participants, instruction will begin on the beach or on the water. “For the yoga classes,” says Cohen, “step-by-step instructions on poses or techniques are given. It's a lot like the game 'Simon says,' or sometimes Twister. Instructors are well-trained and are great with experienced and newbies alike.”
Why train on water?
“Most yoga tends to be stuck on a mat, and it's usually indoors,” said Cohen. “But paddling out on a SUP feels like taking a walk on the water. It's a great way to connect with nature.” In other words, SUP takes one to the perfect spiritual setting in which to train both body and mind. “SUP yoga has appeal both for people who have never done yoga and for people who have always done it.”
Oki-SUP also leads tours that can be arranged for almost any location, “not just Kadena Marina.” Cohen stresses. “We carry inflatable SUPs that can be transported in a regular passenger vehicle practically anywhere.”
In mid-August, Oki-SUP will be conducting their newbie SUP lesson and SUP yoga event at Kadena Marina. The instructor-to-student ratio will be very low as it is apparently not difficult persuading instructors to get out on the water where they're happiest. Later, Cohen and company will offer other special events including a tour down the Hija River and a group excursion to Kouri Island. In September, Oki-SUP will be having a sale on SUPs and related equipment.