In high school, Brody Welte won all-state honors in track and football. Later, at Michigan State, he earned a degree in wildlife biology.
"I always wanted to do something where I could combine my passion for fitness with my love for the outdoors," he explained. "Unfortunately, as a personal trainer, you spend most of your time inside a gym."
Ten years ago, after a brief stint working in California's recreation industry, Welte moved to the island of Kauai in Hawaii.
"I learned that you didn't need a lot of fancy machines to stay fit," he said. "You have everything you need outside."
One day, Welte was down at the beach with some clients when he saw some of the locals standing up and paddling what looked like oversized surfboards.
"That is all it took," he said. "From that day on I was hooked."
The extra-wide surfboards, which are paddled like canoes, go by the name SUPs, or stand-up paddleboards.
Many think that Leroy Achoy, a legendary Hawaiian surfer, was the first to paddle a tandem surfboard, so he could take photos of his fellow wave riders in the break at Waikiki in the early 1970s. Others think that stand-up paddleboards trace back to Duke Kahanamoku, the father of surfing and an Olympic gold medalist in swimming.
But regardless of its origins, one man, Laird Hamilton, is responsible for introducing stand-up paddleboards to the masses. A 6-foot-3, 215-pound Hawaiian big wave surfer, Hamilton has been featured on television commercials and magazine covers.
"In the islands, your gym is the ocean," said Welte, who has trained with Hamilton. "Florida is not much different. Everywhere you turn, you have great water. Why not use it?"
Welte, a lifelong athlete, has yet to find a better full-body workout than stand-up paddling.
"The average male can burn between 800 and 1,000 calories per hour, with the average female burning about 500 to 700 calories per hour," he said. "Compare this to running on a treadmill or an elliptical machine, where an average male burns between 600 to 700 calories and the average female burns between 300 to 400 calories."
Beginners need not be intimidated. Stand-up paddleboarding is not nearly as complicated as surfing. Most paddlers can get up and going in less than an hour.
Once they do, it won't be long before they start seeing the benefits of their labor. Stand-up paddlers strengthen the core, the large, deeper muscles that pattern themselves around the trunk, hips and buttocks.
"The core is the power generator of the body," Welte said. "It is where we get most of our strength. Lower back pain, knee and hip pain can all be attributed to a weak core."
Balance will also improve. "You are using all of the intrinsic stabilizing muscles that aid you in your balance . . . muscles that usually get neglected in the traditional fitness center sitting," he added.
Terry Tomalin can be reached at email@example.com.