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- by Brion O'Connor, Men's Fitness
When you hear the term “group exercise,” thoughts of Jane Fonda, leotards and complicated dance routines likely come to mind. Once considered a ‘ladies-only’ club, group exercise classes are now as varied and diverse as the options at the local ice cream shop. There is something for everyone. And joining a group exercise class may be just the thing you need to spark, or reignite, your interest in fitness. Whether you want to lose fat, build muscle or blow off steam, here are the top five reasons for getting into the group:
Instead of lying on your chest and jumping to your feet when you catch a wave, you stand, propelling yourself through the water with a long paddle or oar. A stand-up paddleboard is thicker, wider, and longer than a surfboard, so it's easier to stand on and provides more stability on choppy water.
Any lake, bay, or river is fine for mastering the basics. Once you know what you’re doing, test your skills in these top-notch locales, which offer a variety of conditions, plus rentals and lessons.
The Hawaiian Islands are a haven for paddle boarders, but one stands above the rest. "Oahu is a must paddle destination," says Liam Wilmott of C4 Waterman. "It is the birthplace of this sport." Every side of Oahu is accessible in less than an hour's drive, and the conditions cater to every level of paddler, from the burly waves of the North Shore, the gentle rollers of Waikiki, and the quick downwind runs on the eastern and southern shores.
Summersville Lake was created by one of the world's largest earthen dams, and the water here is like silk. Even better, the surrounding walls are a rock climber's dream. "When they built the dam, they mined the walls of the lake, creating these enormous cliffs, all around the lake," says Luke Hopkins, founder of Ridestride.com, makers of Stride Stand Up Paddleboards. "I've gone there, paddle boarding, and then free climbed the cliffs above the water. It's a very cool experience."
The 18-mile section of the Colorado River running through Glenwood Canyon is especially attractive, due to its variety and predictable flow. "It's the ultimate spot," says Ken Hoeve, a Surftech-sponsored rider. "You've got rapids below the dam, and everything in the four miles above it is flat." The slow-moving lake is ideal for novices just starting out, and pro-level paddlers looking to train. Easy access right off Interstate 70, breathtaking scenery, and a phenomenal head-high, river-wide surf wave in Glenwood are three more reasons to visit.
Situated in the heart of Chesapeake Bay crab country, on Maryland's eastern shores, the Blackwater Refuge is a paddler's utopia. Encompassing more than 25,000 acres, you'll find a remarkable marshland ecosystem with countless paths criss-crossing the tidal marches, all begging to be explored. "It's really remote," says Hopkins. "And you have all these slow-moving channels that go all over the place." The refuge also features camping platforms for overnight stays, and guided canoe trips that paddlers can accompany.
Mission Bay Park is the country's largest man-made aquatic park, at 4,235 acres. "Mission Bay is huge, but feels like a little slice of paradise," says Ryan Levinson, a C-4 Waterman athlete. "You can paddle a small loop of four miles, or a big loop of almost 12 miles." During summer, Levinson recommends a moonlight paddle to catch the fireworks at nearby SeaWorld. For variety, check out Dana Point farther north. Both have quiet harbors with easy access to the ocean, without the surf swell that can make paddling precarious, and plenty of parking (helping paddlers avoid a long trek with their gear).