TAMPA - Head to any local beach and you will surely locals standing up and paddling what look like oversized surfboards. The extra-wide surfboards, which are paddled like canoes, go by the name SUPs, or stand-up paddleboards.
Many believe that Leroy Achoy, a legendary Hawaiian surfer, was the first to paddle a tandem surfboard, so he could take photos of his fellow wave riders in the break at Waikiki in the early 1970s.
Others believe that stand-up paddleboards trace back to Duke Kahanamoku, the father of surfing and an Olympic gold medalist in swimming.
But regardless of its origins, one man, Laird Hamilton, is responsible for introducing stand-up paddleboards to the masses. A 6-foot 3-inch, 215-pound Hawaiian big wave surfer, Hamilton has been featured on television commercials and magazine covers.
In the islands, your gym is the ocean. Florida is not much different. Everywhere you turn, you have great water. Why not use it? The average male can burn between 800 and 1,000 calories per hour paddleboardng - the average female, about 500 to 700 calories per hour.
Compare this to running on a treadmill or an elliptical machine, where an average male burns between 600 to 700 calories and the average female burns between 300 to 400 calories.
Beginners need not be intimidated. Stand-up paddleboarding is not nearly as complicated as surfing. Most paddlers can get up and going in less than an hour.
Once they do, it won't be long before they start seeing the benefits of their labor. Stand-up paddlers strengthen the core, the large, deeper muscles that pattern themselves around the trunk, hips and buttocks.
Balance will also improve. You are using all of the intrinsic stabilizing muscles that aid you in your balance ... muscles that usually get neglected in the traditional fitness center sitting.
Once you get the feel of it, you can use your SUP for everything from fishing to camping on barrier islands. If you are like me, it would be long until you are hooked.