Cruising over the Ravenel Bridge with the AC blasting, it's easy to gaze out at the confluence of the Ashley and the Cooper rivers and think, wouldn't it be nice to be on the water today? But getting oneself out of the driver's seat and onto a surfboard, a stand-up paddleboard, or kayak is quite a different story. Luckily, professionals and some enthusiastic moms report there's not only nothing to fear but loads to be gained.
“Big” Jon Ory of Charleston SUP Safaris can attest to that. The certified wilderness first responder and Ohau native began his company 11 years ago and has since seen a boom in women joining the sport. “Eighty percent of my clients are female and between the ages of 25 to 35. We have a lot of younger mothers,” he says.
Even better? The learning curve on a paddleboard, Orly claims, is three seconds. “The expression I liked to use is if you can cook breakfast in the kitchen then you can paddleboard,” he promises. Tours are often designed to encourage beginners, Orly's Dolphin Safari is a two-hour introductory glide great for bird and dolphin watching. Of course, you'll get a work out, too.
“Obviously paddle boarding focuses on your core,” says Orly. “The way you stand on the board, bend your knees, and flatten or straighten your back engages your core muscles.” But the difference, he says, between an afternoon of paddling and 90 minutes in a hot yoga class is, “It is a low-impact exercise. You'll still be able to move the next day,” he said.
For those seeking more of a fitness challenge, plenty of companies around Charleston offer paddleboard fitness classes. Everything from yoga and Pilates to pushups and squats are now being done on floating paddleboards in group classes.
And for young mothers still running after elementary-aged kids, there are opportunities for family paddling. “We offer paddleboard rentals for all ages— doesn't matter if you're 8 or 80, we have one for every age, shape, and size,” Orly said. A basic rental includes a board, life jacket and instruction before you go. For those taking off on their own, most rental facilities offer maps and pointers on the weather.
Wondering what you'll need? Luckily, not much. “Here's what I tell all my clients, wear something you'll feel comfortable paddle boarding in: bathing suit, shorts and a tshirt, leggings, in general wear what you'll feel comfortable in,” Orly advises.
For those looking to hang ten, of course the Lowcountry has surfing too. Mount Pleasant mom Helen Kulseth calls herself a “fairweather surfer.” “Meaning I don't like surfing in cold water with a wet suit,” she jokes. No harm in that, as a solid five months of hot weather allows her to enjoy catching some waves. And with an eight month old, she appreciates taking a break on the beach.
For interested moms, there are numerous options to get into the sport. Jenny Brown, owner of Shaka Surf School, has been surfing for 30 years and now does private lessons including her Wemoons Weekends (one day $90; full weekend $160). “It's a great time for beginner surfer ladies to come out and learn some technical things, safety, practice yoga, and strengthening,” she says. Weemoons is limited to five women max, so there's ample one-on-one time, and Brown says, the opportunity to get to know some cool gals. And though surfing can come off as a more advanced aquatic sport, Brown insists there's no reason to be scared. “That's the thing about life, you can't be scared,” she said. “Surfing is a great sport for moms because it gives you some time to yourself in nature and some time to connect with yourself apart from your kids.” And even if you are scared, she adds, what better way to set an example for children to confront their fears than to hop on a board and ride?
For an outdoor experience that's both one with nature and a solid workout, Kathie Livingston, Nature Adventures Outfitters (NAO) owner and guide says kayaking provides all that and more. “Connecting with the water is a spiritual and meditating experience,” says Livingston. “Not only does it help women keep their upper body strength, but it allows them to unplug and enjoy nature.” NAO offers solo and tandem boats allowing parents to include children in the ride and their only requirement is that a child weigh at least 30 pounds. Once out on the water, kayaking through the blackwater swamps of the National Forest or a saltwater tour of shallow bays, a mom can get a solid core and upper arm workout.
“My son, now 21, was raised in a kayak and now he has such an appreciation for nature,” Livingston said. “Doing this sport is not only a great way for a mom to unwind, but a wonderful way to introduce your children to the natural world.”