Stand-up paddleboarding lessons mix fitness and fun under the Pinellas sun

Max Smedley, 7, on learning to stand-up paddleboard with his dad, Ron, above.

“You just go out there, have fun and chill.”

Max Smedley, 7, on learning to stand-up paddleboard with his dad, Ron, above.

CLEARWATER

It's Dad's big day and if you want to be the most awesome of offspring, treat him to one of the hippest ideas under the Florida sun — a SUP lesson.

What's SUP?

It's short for stand-up paddleboards, which look like oversized surfboards but are paddled like a canoe.

Enthusiasts say it's a fun way to cruise waterways and improve fitness, too.

Tuesday, the Smedley family from Lansing, Mich., took a group lesson from paddling kahuna Brody Welte in the calm waters near the Clearwater Community Sailing Center on Sand Key.

"He had us standing up and paddling in five minutes," said Ron Smedley, 41. "It was a lot of fun; we saw some dolphins, snook. And it's nice because it's something we can all do together."

Or as his son Max, 7, put it: "Yeah, you just go out there, have fun and chill."

Welte, 35, said he learned his craft from top Hawaiian surfers Laird Hamilton and David Kalama, considered SUP pioneers.

Two years ago, Welte started a St. Petersburg business called Stand Up Fitness inside the Reno Beach Surf Shop. They offer SUP lessons, rentals, equipment for sale and adventure vacations. A year ago, he partnered with the Clearwater Community Sailing Center to provide lessons and rentals in north Pinellas.

"I've taught thousands and never had anyone that couldn't get up and paddle," Welte said. Past students include the visually impaired, amputees and special-needs children. His oldest student to date was 77.

Welte, a Michigan State grad who lived and surfed in Hawaii and California for several years, is also a personal trainer who teaches students how to use their board as a fitness mat while on the water.

But he said that just standing and paddling can reap huge rewards, too.

"You have your cardiovascular benefits, too, with zero impact on your joints. Females paddling vigorously can burn up to 600 calories an hour, and males can burn 1,000."

Celebs like Matt Damon, Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey are SUP fans. And the fact that the sport can be done on any large body of water makes it accessible to most, grandma and grandpa included.

Welte said industry data shows SUP is the fastest-growing water sport in the world.

"It's expected to overtake kayaking, canoeing and possibly surfing because of its accessibility and the fact that no demographics are excluded," he said.

SUP lessons

Stand Up Fitness lessons include one hour of instruction and one hour free-paddle with all equipment included. Private and semiprivate lessons cost $79 each; $59 each for groups of three or more. Gift certificates are available. There are two locations:

• North Shore Park, 901 North Shore Drive NE,

St. Petersburg. (727) 260-2362.

• Clearwater Community Sailing Center, 1001 Gulf Blvd. on Sand Key. (727) 742-8870.

Stand-up paddleboarding lessons mix fitness and fun under the Pinellas sun 06/16/11 [Last modified: Thursday, June 16, 2011 6:28pm]

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