Fitness Class Review: Standup Paddleboarding Fitness With DC Surf Company

Spoiler alert: It involved burpees in the middle of a river.

DC Surf Company founder Steve Benkert teaches fitness classes on standup paddleboards on the Potomac River as part of his SUP Fitness program. Photograph via Keybridge Boathouse.

In the past few months I’ve put my body through some pretty intense workouts. So this past Saturday I was looking forward to a relaxing morning of learning how to standup paddleboard along the Potomac.

But “relaxing” turned out to mean four rounds of burpees. On a paddleboard. On the not-exactly-stable surface of a river.

Turns out about 15 of us had signed up for SUP Fitness, an exercise class that takes place entirely on paddleboards. It’s the crazy idea whipped up by DC Surf Company founder Steve Benkert, who hails from California and clearly “loves the water.”

The enthusiastic Benkert gave the six first-timers a brief tutorial on how to mount the board and paddle before beginning the workout. Once I got the hang of it, I slowly paddled to my doom, a.k.a. the interval training, although not before I almost crashed into the river bank in front of some curious onlookers. (I thought turning around would be the most difficult move to master of the day. I was wrong on so many levels.)

We performed four sets of various exercises, each one progressively harder than the last. Pushups turned into pushups with knee tucks. Air squats turned into squat twists while holding the paddle over your head. Planks turned into mountain climbers. Each set ended with a set of burpees and a quick paddle sprint. It was easy to see how one could burn approximately 800 calories in the hour-and-15-minute class.

It was your typical boot-camp session, but performed on a very wobbly surface. As expected, there were a few close calls that included crashing into one another and at least one unfortunate tumble into the water by someone who hadn’t quite gotten his balance just yet.

But despite the difficulty, it was by far one of my most fun workouts of the year. Talk about a happy accident.

SUP Fitness*. 3500 Water St., NW; 202-337-9642. $35. 

*SUP Fitness is not intended for beginners—obviously. Benkert recommends first taking Key Bridge Boathouse’s SUP 101 Intro to Standup Paddleboarding.