Walter Wilkins was standing on a beach in Maui when he discovered stand up paddle boarding (SUP). “I watched Laird Hamilton in his backyard break and, needless to say, it was pretty cool. The first thing that went through my mind was, ‘This [sport] is how I can spend more time on the water.’” Since then Wilkins, a lifelong Hilton Head resident and water enthusiast, has tried just about every incarnation of SUP—from fishing to fitness.
“You can basically do anything on a SUP,” began Mike Overton of Outside Hilton Head. “And that includes fishing. We offer custom designed paddle board excursions such as SUP fishing.” According to Overton, fishing from a board offers sportsmen (and women) a unique and rather stealthy experience as they cast quietly while being able to read the water from a standing position.
Ken Rioux of Soul SUP is one of the kings of cruising our waters via paddle board. Another local SUP virtuoso and advocate Glen Barroncini turned Rioux onto the sport several years ago and now SUP is a form of moving meditation for Rioux. “The water here is so peaceful,” said Rioux giving an emphasis to the word so. “On any given paddle you can see dolphins, jellyfish, stingrays, river otters, leatherback turtles, all birdlife and the occasional hammerhead shark. You can clear your mind while appreciating nature and getting a good core workout.”
Though Hilton Head is famous for its pristine beaches, it is not necessarily known for its waves. This makes us family-friendly, but not particularly exciting to surfers—unless they are paddle board surfers. “A paddle board lets you catch smaller waves,” said Wilkins who added, “Like today, there’s just enough surf to ride some ‘after work waves.’”
Intrinsic to the sport, paddle boarding requires core stability, as well as a communion with nature. These two key elements were the impetus behind SUP Yoga—an all-levels activity that leaves you feeling Zen-zoned and fitness toned. Both Rioux (who’s wife owns Jiva Yoga) and Overton offer SUP yoga and, having done it several times, I highly recommend it—especially given Hilton Head’s tranquil waters and outstanding instructors.
Fitness SUP includes aerobic sprints via paddling and effective high intensity interval training moves like burpees to effectively sculpt muscles and burn calories.
Wilkins, along with Rioux and Overton, believe anyone can explore the seemingly endless summer of SUP possibilities in the Lowcountry. “It is a very accessible sport,” said Wilkins. “Depending on your level, you just need to rent a board or get a lesson from someone like Mike [Overton] or Ken [Rioux] and get out on the creek for your first time. From there, see where the sport takes you.” Wilkins continued by explaining the different types of boards and even some that are made locally. “Jason Bishop has his own line of boards that you can check out at jbsup.com and Roddy Medders and Megan Mack have an inflatable line that you can check out at thehamMmer.com."
Becca Edwards is a wellness professional, freelance writer, and owner of b.e.WELL+b.e.CREATIVE (bewellbecreative.com).