by Karen Mirlenbrink 4

I was first introduced to stand up paddleboarding years ago when I was approached to teach Pilates on the board. Having never really paddled a board before, I was amazed to find that the board I was given to “play with” was essentially a floating yoga mat. It was wide, flat, stable, and it even had a pad on it that acted like a yoga mat. This got my creative juices flowing, and within a few weeks, I developed an entire class and program that fluidly combined stand up paddleboarding, Pilates, and other core-based exercises suitable for the board. I called it SUPilates.

Pilates on the paddleboard is a unique challenge. Initially, your core is challenged just for you to stand on the board. Since the Pilates method already challenges the core and postural alignment, adding the balance challenge of the board only makes the Pilates workout more challenging, more interesting, and more fun!

Just to note, stand up paddleboarding is not limited to oceans. There is plenty of paddling on lakes, rivers, and even in public pools. However, it’s important that you do know how to swim prior to paddling, as falling in is part of the game. It is also a good idea to seek out knowledgeable paddling and Pilates professionals when looking for a place to rent or buy boards or take a class. This will ensure your safety, and will follow the laws of the water. SUPilates should be done in calm water conditions.

Here are a few SUPilates exercises for you to try:

Starting Position » Tabletop

Karen Mirlenbrink - Starting Position Tabletop

To begin, lie on your back, and bring your knees to a 90-degree position. Draw the abdominals in and allow the lower back to press against the board. Hold the paddle in your hands. Inhale, and pull the paddle over your head without allowing your upper back to leave the board. Exhale, and float the paddle over your knees, lifting your head and shoulders off of the mat.

Single Leg Stretch

Karen Mirlenbrink - Single Leg Stretch

Inhale, extend the right leg, while simultaneously lifting the paddle over your head. Exhale, bring the paddle back down to the starting postion while switching legs. Keep the spine supported by the abdominals and hold the back against the mat through the entire movement. Repeat 10 times.


Karen Mirlenbrink - Scissors

Transition from the Single Leg Stretch by extending the legs. Hold the paddle over your head. Continue moving the legs in a scicssor-like movement, patterned with your breath. Keep the movement slow and controlled, and the spine supported by the abdominals.


Karen Mirlenbrink - Teaser

Starting in a seated postion, bend your knees and hold onto your thighs with your hands. Inhale, engage your abdominal muscles and lift your feet off of the board. Exhale, release your hands and balance on your tail. Inhale, hold the position, exhale, hold the thighs and return feet to board. Extend legs to challenge the core more.

Pilates Push Ups

Karen Mirlenbrink - Pilates Push Ups

Start on your hands and knees. Walk the knees back, and shift your weight forward into your hands. OR extent legs, pressing up into a full plank position. Pull the abdominals up into the spine and pull the shoulder blades down. Inhale to prepare, exhale lower chest towards the board, keeping the elbows very close to the torso. Inhale at the bottom, exhale, return to the top. To add a challenge, lift a leg.

Crescent Lunge

Karen Mirlenbrink - Crescent Lunge

From your hands and knees, swing one foot forward between your hands. Reach the other leg back. Begin in a lunge position on your knee, with your hands on the mat. Extend the back knee, and press through the heel so that the knee leaves the mat. Keeping the front knee bent, extend the spine and reach the hands overhead, challenging your balance. Keep the abdominals tight and the hips level and square.

Karen Mirlenbrink has always described herself as a total beach bunny who can’t keep her toes out of the sand. Growing up on the beaches of the Florida Gulf Coast, her idea of the perfect day involves being in or on the water learning… more »