What’s SUP Yoga?

SUP Yoga by Neal bepko - Flickr CCSorry about the headline, I could not resist. I just saw a BBC report about a growing trend of yoga on standup paddleboards (SUPs). It sounds a little barmy really but yoga fans and SUPers are getting together for some awesome action on the water.

What is SUP?

SUP is pretty much a combination of a surf board and a paddle. It was invented in Hawaii, where it is called hoe he’e nalu. 

SUP expert Tez Plavenieks told us a little about this relatively new sport: “The original form of SUP stretches all the back to the 1950s when the Waikiki Beach Boys would stand on their longboards while taking photos of American tourists learning to surf.

SUP Portugal
Karma Surf Retreat – SUP Portugal

“SUP in modern form has been around since early 2000. Laird Hamilton (co-invented Tow-in surfing) and Dave Kalama (Windsurfing World Champion) revived the sport as a way to train on flat water during Hawaii summers. It was only later they realized stand up’s potential in surf.”

SUP was listed in The Outdoor Foundation’s 2013 Outdoor Participation Report as one of the most popular outdoor activities.

It has become very popular in areas where wind and surf conditions are less than ideal, so you can often see SUPers around the UK coast, in lakes and on rivers.

SUP boards

SUP boards have their own specific designs; they tend to be wider than a surf board. There are several types of SUP board: the longest and slimmest boards are race boards, these are are 12”6′ to 14 feet long. Cruising boards are a little shorter and All Rounder boards are shorter and wider still. All Rounder boards are best for SUP yoga because they provide more stability.

SUP Yoga

Jen Austin
Jen Austin – standup paddleboard yoga teacher, speaking to the BBC

SUP yoga is a style of yoga that is similar to doing a yoga class that provides a full body workout that works every muscle in the your, especially your core muscles because you have to keep your core engaged to stabilize yourself on the board.

Jen Austin, a standup paddleboard yoga teacher from Cornwall, UK, explained to the BBC her love of SUP yoga: “There is something very beautiful and relaxing about floating on the ocean while you are doing your yoga practice.

“I love SUP yoga because it gives up the opportunity to be outside surrounded by the most beautiful scenery when we are doing our yoga practice. It’s so nice just to be here by the beach, floating in the water, relaxing.”

Jen goes on to explain that it is s new challenge because you have to work every single muscle in your body to stay steady on your board. At the same time the sea provides a fantastic place to relax and enjoy the natural elements.

SUP yoga takes a lot of mental focus because the moment you allow your thoughts to wander you will find yourself falling in to the water.

SUP class format

Jen teaches her students a full range of poses from lying down on the board, breathing exercises, moving to standing poses, which are obviously harder when balancing on the ocean. The classes finish with a relaxation session where students lie down on their boards, close their eyes and take a little time to relax, listen to the sounds of the ocean and enjoy the scenery.

When asked if it is just a fad, Jen said no. “I don’t think it’s a fad, it’s a fun activity and people are doing it to feel good. It is very big over in America now and it has just started to come over to the UK so we have just started teaching it here in Cornwall”.

Cornwall is one of the most popular places in the UK for surfing so it is no surprise that the first SUP yoga teacher is from Cornwall.

“If you already practice yoga it just takes your yoga practice to a whole new level. And if you have never practiced yoga before it is something different and fun to try”.

Watch the BBC report:

SUP Yoga resources

SUP resources

  • www.supboardermag.com – a UK based online mag for paddleboarders. They have a directory of UK SUP schools.
  • Stand Up Paddle Mag UK – Tez Plavenieks’ SUP publication
  • www.ussuptour.com – A US group that organizes SUP events and races.


  • The Outdoor Foundation’s 2013 Outdoor Participation Report (pdf)

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