By TERRI BRYCE REEVES
When his girlfriend encouraged him to enter the national Wilhelmina Hot Body Model Search in the fall, Chase Kosterlitz figured, why not?
"I didn't have anything to lose and I could have won a trip to New York and a modeling contract," he said.
He didn't win the contract, but his photo did get him voted "best abs" by the online voting community.
We asked the St. Pete Beach resident how he got those washboard abs and found it wasn't by spending countless hours sweating in a gym. All this guy needs is a board, a paddle and the great outdoors.
So what's the juice on the six-pack?
I'm a standup paddleboarder, have been for four years. It's great fun, but it also really tones your core and is great for your balance.
Paddleboards are like surfboards, only a little longer and wider. The rider stands up and propels through the water with an oar, which is what works the abdominal muscles.
SUP, or standup paddleboarding, is unlike traditional surfing where you have to catch a wave. In fact, it's easier on calm water and can be done anywhere: rivers, lakes and in the ocean.
Any other "secrets" for getting a ripped core?
I try to eat a lot of protein and avoid processed foods. I'm not on a strict diet but I make sure what I'm putting in my body is good for me because it's the fuel that makes me go. I struggle with a sweet tooth but try not to overindulge.
My board is my gym. When I'm not paddling, I use it as a fitness mat and do crunches, squats and pushups on the water. You have to stabilize the board, which challenges your muscles in new ways.
I paddleboard at least three or four times a week. When it's cold, I wear a wetsuit. I crosstrain by doing sprints on the beach.
This is a lifestyle, something I enjoy. It doesn't feel like work.
How did you get started?
When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, I was a freshman on a basketball scholarship at Loyola University in New Orleans. I left everything behind — my clothes, laptop and textbooks — and came to St. Petersburg, where my dad lives. I started playing basketball at Eckerd College and liked the area so much, I stayed.
Along the way I learned to kiteboard and began teaching others. On the days when there was little or no wind, my friends and I began to experiment with standup paddleboarding.
Last year, I began competing and really loved it. Now I've gone professional and am sponsored by Fanatic, a board company. (In 2010, Kosterlitz placed first at the Royal Paddle Event in Puerto Rico and was among the top finishers in the Battle of the Paddle in Hawaii.)
And the beginnings of the sport itself?
Man has been standing up and paddling boards for hundreds of years, but SUP really began in the 1950s, when surfing instructors stood on boards to get a better view of their students.
Then in the 1990s, some of the big-name Hawaiian surfers were featured in magazines on their standup boards, touting the fitness aspects of paddleboarding, and the sport really took off.
People are realizing the health benefits, how good it is for core conditioning, as well as how much fun it is. Just about all the trendy athletic-type celebrities like Kate Hudson, Jennifer Aniston and Matthew McConaughey have been seen cruising along on paddleboards. It's the world's fastest-growing water sport.
Is this something that's only for the young and fit?
Anyone who wants to do it can. I had a guy in his 80s who had hip and knee replacements. In not much time, I had him up on a board and he was having a blast.
Most people can be standing up on a board within five minutes. It's easier than kiteboarding and surfing. And you don't have to live in Florida, California or Hawaii. Canadians and Russians are out there paddling around the icebergs.
How much will it cost?
You can buy a foam board for $500, but a good one will cost between $1,000 and $2,000. Of course, once you've made your initial investment in a board and oars, the water is free.
Terri Bryce Reeves can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org