Time to Get Your Feet Wet!
6 water sports you probably haven’t tried yet
It’s summertime! Finally. Long, warm days and extra hours to try
something new. Haven’t you gazed enviously at those slim, graceful
rowing shells and wondered just how you could get a taste of that beautiful
sport? Well, we’ve got tips for rowing and more.
Before you do get started, there are some precautions you should take.
Make sure to wear sunscreen and a hat. Bring water and pack a personal
flotation device, especially if you’re brand new to an activity.
Be sure to pace yourself and don’t venture too far alone. Probably
a good idea to pack your cell phone in a watertight bag.
Many water sports can be a good way to cross train and/or recover from
an injury. “Most of these activities are literally impact-free and
can be a great way to stay active while you heal from a knee injury, for
instance,“ says Torrance Memorial primary care physician Alexander
Ellis, MD. Prone paddleboarding literally has you lying down and using
your arms and core. “The advantage of all of these water sports
is they will provide cardiovascular and pulmonary fitness while being
fun at the same time,” says Dr. Ellis. “And any exercise program
that’s enjoyable in its own right becomes something people will
continue on an ongoing basis.” Most of these sports, in fact, require
core strength, so you can train on dry land before you start. And whatever
sport you choose, take some time to warm up on land, then cool down and
Here are water sports popular in the South Bay, and how you can try them
on for size.
Prone paddleboarding AKA prone paddling, is pretty straightforward: You lie prone on a long
surfboard, and use your arms to paddle. The movement is a lot like swimming,
and one of the challenges is keeping your balance so you don’t fall
off, so there’s that full-bore core work we’ve been talking
about. “There’s nothing like that glide when you get on the
water and start paddling,” says competitive paddler Donna Jo “DJ”
O’Brien, our cover subject. “Your hands are touching the water,
and you become part of the water. You see dolphins, you see whales. It
can be very social or it can be solitary. And unlike ocean swimming, you’re
on top of the water, not immersed.” Other things to consider: You
are very low to the water, i.e., not that visible, so wearing bright clothing
is critical, and you also should wear a leash just in case you do fall
off. Bring plenty of water, usually a bottle secured by a cage. This is
serious exercise, so pace yourself and start with short bouts. DJ runs
a racing club—South Bay Mermaids—for women (check out the
SB Mermaids Facebook page), also Oceans Prone Paddle, which puts on monthly
races for all. oceansprone.org.
Standup paddling, affectionately known as SUPing, has recently been popularized by big
wave surfers Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama. The Hawaiian sport is now
so popular you can rent boards and get lessons for any level of fun: a
full-on paddle out and surf back session, or a leisurely paddle in flat
water. The movement seems easy: Standing on a long surf board and using
a long paddle, you reach forward from the hips, plunk the paddle into
the water and pull back. But balancing is tricky, as is making sure to
use your core and back, not just arms. Best to take a couple lessons.
Learn more at canoeicf.com/discipline/stand-up-paddle, or check local
listings for lessons.
Outrigger Canoeing Another Polynesian island sport, outrigger canoeing is big in Southern
California, with clubs up the entire west coast. Most boats hold six paddlers,
including a steersperson. Participants sit in the fiberglass canoes and
use unfixed paddles to move the boat forward. As with SUPing, the goal
is to hinge forward from the hips and use a rotation of your core, back
and hips in addition to shoulders and arms. There are races, ranging from
sprints to long-distance—the most famous runs from the mainland
to Catalina Island—which are spectacular to watch. If you love roughriding
through the waves, this sport is for you. Learn more at Southern California
Outrigger Racing Association (scora.org) or check out King Harbor Outrigger
Club, lanakila.com, or Marina del Rey Outrigger Canoe Club, marinaoutrigger.org.
Rowing comes in two styles:
Sweep rowing has rowers using a fixed oar on one side of the boat, starboard or port,
and most boats hold four or eight people; in
sculling rowers use two fixed oars, and boats hold one, two or four rowers. And
yes, you go backwards, often with a coxswain who steers the boat. The
movement is full-body but focused on the legs; if you want to really learn
how to row on a machine (i.e., lose the Crossfit arch), try a Learn to
Row program in the fall or spring. While it’s generally thought
of as a collegiate sport, there are plenty of masters’ recreational
programs. Learn more at USRowing.org or check out Long Beach Rowing Association,
562-438-3352, Longbeachrowing.org, or Los Angeles Rowing Club, based in
Marina del Rey, larowing.com.
Kayaking might be the most accessible water sport of all, and you can do it on any
body of water—ocean, river, lake, pond. The learning curve is not
steep, you only have to sit in the kayak and master the double-bladed
paddle, but it’s still worth taking a lesson so you don’t
end up paddling in circles, and learn how to get back to upright if you
accidently flip over. Yes, that does happen, although it’s less
likely in an ocean kayak than in a trim, tippy whitewater boat. Do invest
in a buoyancy aid, somewhat like a lifejacket but with more room for movement.
Start sitting in the kayak with your back straight, hold the paddle with
both hands, the concave part facing you, hands a bit wider than shoulder
distance apart. Keeping your arms relatively straight, sweep through the
water with one blade, then rotate and sweep with the other. The rhythm
will come to you, and it’s one of the most pleasant things about
the sport. Know how to save yourself and remember people are more important
than boats. Learn more at American Kayaking Association (Americankayak.org).
Kitesurfing or kiteboarding, is something completely different, combining elements
of windsurfing, paragliding, wakeboarding and sailing. A kitesurfer stands
on a kind of surfboard and hooks a large kite to a harness around their
waist. The kite fills with wind and the kitesurfer is propelled across
the water. It’s less equipment-laden than other sailing sports,
so somewhat more convenient. Expert kitesurfers also catch waves (imagine,
no paddling out). Another sport popularized by Laird Hamilton, this time
along with Manu Bertin, kitesurfing may be an Olympic sport soon. The
experts all agree that it’s best to take a lesson to learn how to
launch and fly the kite, and how to use the bar. Learn more at americankiteboarding.org.