A typical SUP yoga class at Mike’s Paddle entails learning basic paddling techniques, paddling out to a calm spot on the Bay, anchoring, and starting a yoga practice on a wide board. “It’s fun to explore and figure out what poses are best for you,” says yoga instructor Sari Gelzer-Stankowski. “The beautiful thing is that you can fall. The water is soft.” By taking in the natural elements of sunlight, the breeze and the lapping water, students are restored and energized. “The biggest thing is feeling connected to nature. Just being on the water is healing,” she says.
Gelzer-Stankowski is a Certified Yoga Instructor and Yoga Program Coordinator at Mike’s Paddle. After learning about SUP with owner and coach Mike Wang, she became a SUP Yoga teacher and has created a yoga retreat program. Because of balance, yoga on the board takes on a different flavor than it does on land. “Imagine a high lunge,” says Gelzer-Stankowski. “It is actually really challenging because all of the muscles in your legs are working a lot more when you are trying to stay up there. It’s refreshing to have the poses that are easy on land become the more challenging ones of the water.”
Mike Wang started the business in May of 2015. After years of working a day job and paddling and rafting on the side, he decided to make a switch and start his own business. ‘Stand up develops your core without you really thinking about it,’ he says. ‘It makes you have good posture, it’s fun, and it’s outside.’ As an American Canoe Association Certified Instructor and a Pro Paddlefit Coach, he runs classes and leads paddles for all levels. People get hooked by taking an Intro to SUP class to learn the basics, while more advanced paddlers tour around the Bay near the Golden Gate Bridge.
Wang also organizes international trips to places like Taiwan and Croatia. Trips range from beginner paddling on calm water, to higher level paddling and surfing itineraries. While traveling with a paddling group to Taiwan this season, Wang paddled with locals. “I had never been to Taiwan before, even though I’m from China and had lived there for 15 years. The culture is really related to water,” says Wang.
One of his goals for Mike’s Paddle is to bring diverse groups of people onto the water. “A lot of inner-city youth don’t get to enjoy the Bay even though they are so close. I connect with high schools and Girls Inc. to get them on the water at a discounted or free price,” he says. He compares these outings with paddling in Taiwan. “In Asia, you see a lot of people on the water and they aren’t afraid of it. It is really awesome to see 20 local Taiwanese surfers really shredding it. It’s cool to see kids who have never seen a board before get on the board, laughing and having a great time.”
Although there are guidelines for teaching SUP Yoga, there isn’t a certification or governing body for it yet. “We are developing a certification for yoga teachers so they can understand and teach SUP Yoga,” says Gelzer-Stankowski. The classes will be available to certified yoga teachers this fall as continuing education credits.
Mike’s Paddle, 1150 Ballena Blvd #121, Alameda, CA 94501, +1 (415) 295-2925