By now, you’ve probably seen them.
They stand on top of a longboard, their fingers wrapped around a single oar as they plunge it into the water, almost as if they’re paddling a gondola through a canal in Italy. They cruise Longboat Key, Turtle Beach, Sarasota Bay and Siesta Key, sometimes in the morning and other times to watch the sunset. Last Friday, one first-time paddler even struck a yoga pose on her board.
Ami French thought she’d signed up to give a yoga demonstration on Turtle Beach. But Bob McFarland, owner of Sarasota Paddleboard Co., had two surprises in store for her. Not only did he invite her to execute yoga poses, he asked her to perform them on top of a paddleboard — out in the water.
French was shocked, but was immediately willing to try it. Once she got her bearings, she started to do an outline of her Sivananda yoga class. For the next hour, McFarland followed along on his own board.
“I was excited about that added element of being on the water, for challenges, as well as the serenity aspect,” French said. “It was beautiful as we drifted around.”
McFarland, 52, picked up paddleboarding three years ago when he was first getting into longboard surfing. Countless times, he sat on the board and waited for waves that were hardly big enough to surf.
“I thought it was going to be just about surfing, but it turns out it was even more popular and just as much fun to flat-water paddle,” McFarland said. “It just gets you out of the work place and on the water, and it’s great physically and mentally.”
Because the paddleboard is slightly larger than a yoga mat, it’s roughly the same general space in which to perform poses. As with any yoga class, French began with breathing exercises that worked on her center of gravity. Gradually, she moved into sun salutations, a flowing series of 12 poses that help improve strength and flexibility of the muscles and spinal column and also aid in warming up the body and toning the abdominal muscles. From there, she added warrior stances and pigeons, finally moving into a backbend as her last pose.
“The backbend was probably the most challenging,” French said. “There are adaptations with paddling and keeping your center of balance, but the two together have beautiful synergy. I’m hooked for sure.”
French will give yoga/paddleboard demonstrations at the Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) Festival July 17 and July 18, at Lido Beach. McFarland believes the demos will be the first of their kind in town.
“You’re breathing good air, working on your posture and engaging the core muscles,” McFarland said. “It’s got to be good for you.”
If you go
What: Sarasota Stand Up Paddleboarding Beach Festival with Ark Paddleboards and Sarasota Paddleboard Co. The event includes beach and mangrove tunnel paddleboarding, 1-mile and 4-mile races, freestyle competition, yoga demonstrations, poker run and after parties.
When: July 17 and July 18
Where: Lido Beach Resort, 700 Ben Franklin Drive, Lido Key
Cost: Advanced registration before July 10 is $25 and includes all events, shirt and $15 food voucher.
Information: Call 650-2241 or e-mail [email protected]
Contact Loren May at [email protected].