By Adam Jackson
Special to the Tribune
For stand-up paddleboard instructor Liz Buzza, standing on a board in the middle of a lake is more than just a sport — it’s a full-body experience.
And, despite the inherent short season for water sports in Canada, it’s growing.
This is the second year that Buzza has hosted instructional workshops on the physically demanding sport that crosses standard kneeling paddleboarding with surfing and a little bit of canoeing.
She hosts classes in town at the Speed River and Guelph Lake, as well as the Laurel Creek Conservation Area and Conestogo Lake near Waterloo.
“It’s becoming popular here because it’s very versatile,” said Buzza, who has created her own business related to the sport called SUP Guelph.
“Paddling is obviously very popular in cottage country and that sort of thing, but also there are a lot of race series going on in Ontario.”
And not only is it fun, said Buzza, it’s a great work out as well.
“When you’re standing, you’re balancing and it’s also a great workout in your core,” said Buzza.
“It’s both challenging and very social and relaxing — you can explore waterways in a very different way.”
Buzza started stand-up paddleboarding last year, but she has spent much of her life on the water windsurfing.
“Stand-up paddleboarding allows me to go out in all kinds of conditions . . . with this, you have one board and you can go anywhere,” said Buzza.
“I love the water, I love being outside and the fitness aspect of it.”
While common sense would lead you to believe that stand-up paddleboarding can only be done on still water, Buzza explains that races on fast-moving water are becoming more popular as the sport progresses.
“Rivers are a really exciting aspect,” said Buzza.
Buzza had about 50 people out on the water last year in only six weeks.
Classes are capped at a maximum size of three, and she also hosts a stand-up paddleboarding fitness boot camp for those looking to get in shape.
While it is still a relatively new sport in this area, Buzza sees it growing exponentially.
“We’re in the infancy stages of this sport,” said Buzza. “In the scale of its growth, it’s similar to kayaking in Canada.
“In the last few years, it’s sort of exploded.”
There is a sharp learning curve when it comes to balancing yourself on the water, but Buzza says it’s an easily conquered obstacle.
“People have huge breakthroughs,” said Buzza, speaking about a football player who had a lot of injuries to one side of his body.
“He had some balance issues – but I held his board for about half an hour while he shook and he slowly got more stable and he was off on his own. It was amazing – it was like he broke through with some issues he thought he had with his body.”
For more information on Buzza’s company, visit facebook.com/supguelph or www.standuppaddleguelph.com.
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Stand-up paddleboarding: The gist
It’s not likely that anyone’s going to catch a big wave on the Speed River, or even on Guelph Lake for that matter, but stand-up paddleboarding might be the closest a person could come to surfing these waters.
Trainer and instructor Liz Buzza takes classes out on these waters regularly. Each person gets a paddle and a board that looks not unlike a surfboard, but these boards are a bit different.
“They’re longer and they have more volume,” explains Buzza. “They’re made to be stood on and paddled.”
This is in contrast to a surfboard, which works with the momentum of the wave, she says.
There are different kinds of paddleboards, such as race boards, designed for tracking and speed, and those that are meant to be taken into the waves and surfed, but the athletes make use of their paddle to help manoeuvre the board and take it where they want to go.
The sport could be described as combining surfing with canoeing, but unlike in a canoe, paddlers are encouraged to stand.
Buzza starts her students off on their knees until they get the hang of balancing on the water – something that’s a little tricky because of the instability of the water’s surface.
Then, she shows them how to rise to their feet.
When the class is comfortable, she takes them on a paddle down the river.
The perspective is likely a little different than the view a paddler might get sitting low in a canoe.
Buzza insists it’s not difficult for paddlers to get to their feet.
“It’s a really quick learning curve,” she says.
“On the other hand, it’s a full-body workout.”
If you’re going to try it out, expect to hurt the next day.
“It works all your stabilizers,” says Buzza. “There is some muscle soreness.”
Once beginners have covered the basics, they can then graduate to the next level.
Some people paddle out on a calm lake, anchor the board and do yoga as they float on the water’s surface.
Buzza also teaches a “paddle fit” class that incorporates a paddle sprint combined with functional exercises on the board – things like squats, pushups and planks.