Paddle boarding becoming popular fitness craze locally: Video!!
Thursday morning I found myself floating in amongst a patch of lily pads as loons called out to remind everybody why the lake near Vergas is named after them.
The morning sun was reflecting off the water, making the green of the lily pads even more vibrant.
"In yoga, they talk a lot about the Lotus plant, which like lily pads, grow from muck into something beautiful," said Jess Stuewe, the woman who was introducing me to another new, fun and unique thing to do in the Detroit Lakes area -- paddle boarding.
"It sort of symbolizes how we as people can also grow from all of our imperfections to become more beautiful," she said.
I had never touched a paddle board before and really wasn't sure how it all worked.
Stuewe is one of two fitness gurus who introduced the lakes area to the water sport this year (the other being Ben Magnuson of SOL down by the Detroit Lakes city beach).
Stuewe, a middle school math teacher in Detroit Lakes, has been teaching paddle boarding all summer through Frazee and Detroit Lakes Community Education, and although she says some classes get filled up, there are days when it's only a student or two.
This day, it was just me and the other loons on the lake.
Because I had heard I'd be attempting to do yoga poses on a banana shaped board in the water, I went into it assuming I'd feel a little bit like a bull in a china shop. Because I can't always hold a yoga pose without tipping over on land, I wore a swimsuit underneath my workout clothes.
Starting out, we hooked a strap from our ankles to the paddle board, linking us to our "vessel" if we did fall. In adherence to state law, there was also a lifejacket strapped to the board.
"We're just going to warm up with some paddling," said Stuewe, who has been teaching fitness classes for 10 years.
This I could do.
"But you shouldn't bend over, that's going to strain your lower back," she told me, "bend your knees, keep your arms nice and straight and with both feet a hip's width apart, dig into the water in a J-motion."
After the standup paddling session, Stuewe gave me the option of doing Pilates, a bootcamp-style workout or yoga.
"What I love about this is that anything you can do on a mat, you can do on a paddle board," she said, "for me, I love fitness classes and I love being on the water, so this combines my two loves."
I chose yoga because for some reason I thought it would be easier, but I also never thought my legs had the ability to shake so freakishly as I feverishly tried to balance myself in these poses. I think my shaking actually caused waves.
"What you'll probably also notice is that your feet muscles will get sore," said Stuewe. "They are muscles that you probably never really use, but they're the ones you need to balance here."
She's right. I had to consciously relax my toes as they instinctually curled as if trying to cling to the board.
Muscles burned as I went from "flank" position to "downward dog," but the upside down view I got of the lake while in that position was enough to wipe out any unpleasant feeling.
"Isn't it amazing?" asked Stuewe, "Particularly on these calm mornings, it's so serene and calming."
In a perfect world, I'd have the time and resources to do a water-workout like that on a very regular basis, and believe me, I envy those that do.
"We get a lot of vacationers looking to try something new on the lake, but we do also get a lot of locals who will drive all the way from DL to Vergas just for this class," said Stuewe.
The cost of Stuewe's class is $17 per person, but I can see why somebody would pay it. It's unlike anything else I've experienced growing up on Minnesota lakes. You're as close as you can get to the water without actually being in it (because surprisingly, I did not fall in), and you leave with your muscles feeling tired but your mind so awake and relaxed.
Although I went into this knowing very little about the sport, I walked away wondering why it isn't all over lakes country. I'm sure Stuewe and Magnuson will do everything they can to change that, but in the meantime, I know I'll never look at a lily pad the same again.
To give paddle boarding a try either with classes or rentals, call Lakes Pace (that's Stuewe's business) at 218-234-4321 or log on to www.supnorthmn.com; or sign up through Detroit Lakes Community Education at 847-4418 for Frazee Community Education, at 334-3181.
To try the sport with Ben Magnuson, find his SOL Surf Co. on facebook.
And to check out the video on my morning of paddle boarding, log on to www.dl-online.com.