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Need to Know: DownUnder’s Paddle Fit Class, Westport & Rowayton

If you are a Fit CT reader, chances are you live in Fairfield County and you’d agree with me that, in most seasons, we live in one of the most beautiful areas.  The long awaited unofficial start to summer is here and with that we have the desire to spend as much time outside and near or on the water as we possibly can.  Let me tell you, there is no better way to multi-task being close to nature and working out than taking DownUnder’s Paddle Fit class.

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The owner, staff and experienced students pre Paddle Fit class.

Last week I was invited by my sweet friend Gaelle to try out a “Paddle Fit” class at DownUnder in Westport.  I kept waiting for an email to come that the water was too cold, the conditions too windy, but alas, it didn’t come, so I showed up at DU at the appointed time.  I was met by their super friendly and experienced owner, staff and instructors, signed the waiver, was asked about my experience (basically none:  I had been on a stand up paddle board once, a year ago, without instruction).  Once out on the dock I was given a lifejacket (it’s the law) and a paddle and board.  We did a quick stretch and warmup on the dock, some basic instruction (for my benefit because everyone else was a pro in comparison)  and then we were out on the water.

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The PaddleFit class was taught by Karen Jewell who has been a Certified Level 2 instructor for 3 years.  She combined her lifelong passion for fitness with her love of water to become a teacher.  Let me tell you, this woman is FIT!  But she is also supportive and patient and an excellent teacher.

Lucky for me, most in the class were highly experienced Paddle Fit students.  This allowed me to have my own ‘tutor’, Andy, who gave me many pointers since this was basically my first SUP experience.


Huge shout out to Andy who was a very patient tutor.

I quickly determined that I was not going to be able to do everything the instructor asked and I was ok with that.  I decided to formulate my own goals: 1. stay on the board without falling off and 2. learn the proper technique to paddle and turn while dealing with wind and currents.  Luckily, with Andy’s help and tutelage, I was able to accomplish those two goals AND I even felt comfortable enough to plank, do several pushups and squats and row on one knee.

This photo captures the honest reality.

I love this photo as it captures the honest reality – the class was following instruction while I am floating off to the left just attempting to stay on the board.

Some moves I did not feel comfortable attempting but may be able to after a bit more experience:  burpees on the board, mountain climbers and crow (for you yogis!).  I just didn’t get there in my first class but I left feeling exhilarated, accomplished and for a minute thought I was on vacation (until I remembered I had to pick up the kids from school!).

For those students who are experienced, Karen would gather everyone around her out on the board and give instruction.  Paddle 40 quick strokes (to get heart rate up), do 5 burpees, and then 40 quick paddles about 8 times.  If taken the full class the way it is designed you get a total body workout:  cardio, strength, core, agility and BALANCE.

Bottom line:  We all have those ‘pinch me, I’m dreaming’ moments and this is one of them.  Never have I had so much fun doing something completely out of my comfort zone.  I was outside, on the water, with a great group of people and getting a workout.

DownUnder rents boards, gives tours and instruction and conducts Paddle Fit and SUP Yoga at their two locations in Fairfield County:  Saugatuck and Rowayton.

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