The Art and Science of Standup Paddleboarding
I take full credit for recruiting Jerry Napp from the operations side of our industry to the supplier side. That may be an overblown and misleading statement, but you will have to go back 30+ years to prove me wrong. When I first met Jerry, my thirty-three year old son had only recently celebrated his first birthday and a much younger Harrison Ford was cracking whips and crooked smiles in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
At the very end of the 80’s, Jerry was the director of fitness for the downtown YMCA in Birmingham, AL and I was a very green sales rep for Keiser Sports. (thank you Dennis) I pulled up to the YMCA in the now retired first-edition Keiser motorhome and thought I was convincing Jerry of the unique training benefits of pneumatic resistance. Instead, Jerry sold himself on the nomadic lifestyle of the traveling sales rep.
He soon joined the sales team of a fairly young company promoting the benefits of stationary stair climbing – the industry changing Stairmaster, now a part of CORE Fitness. In the thirty years that followed, Jerry served our industry and his clients exceptionally well as both a salesperson and an educator – representing both NASM and ACE along the way.
In spite of his easy-going smile, always optimistic personality and never empty quiver of dad jokes…Jerry is an exercise physiologist at heart (and by education). Jerry represents the science side of this interview.
The Science of SUP’ing in Jerry’s words…
SUP is relatively new, and as a Condition Coach and Exercise Physiologist, I will do my best to describe my journey with SUP as both a sport competition – as well as a healthful activity.
My years with the National Academy of Sports Medicine taught me the training concept of Stabilize, Strengthen and Power. Many techniques taught to the trainers include moving resistance from an unstable surface (such as a bosu ball, wobble board etc). With Paddleboarding, there is the same sequence, since your first skill is balance (STABILIZE)
This improves strength through the smaller muscle groups, and finally, delivers power to the paddle stroke. The adage and image is captured in the concept of “shooting a cannon from a canoe”. To move forward – stabilization must first happen.
There has been a lot of innovation in fitness equipment, but several years ago, Freemotion Fitness started a mini revolution with an emphasis on performing while standing – getting the legs and core to stabilize the movement.
I don’t want to over analyze but SUP truly offers an abundance of challenges that benefits both body and mind, and being outside in nature makes it 1 plus 1 = 3. Paddleboarding can be one of the most ultimate natural outdoor experiences. It might be the perfect exercise but thinking pragmatically, not many people can incorporate SUP regularly.
60+ years in 60 seconds with Jerry
Athlete: Jerry Napp
Home residence: Weeki Wachee, Fl – right on the river.
Age: Jerry: 64
Basic Biometrics: 6’1 175 LB, Body Comp 9%, V02 est 46 Ml/O2/KG (Peak 73 Ml/O2/KG) Flexibility improving, Relative Strength maintaining, Absolute Strength declining. (editor’s note: only an exercise physiologist provides this much detail)
Occupation when not participating in your sport: Former Sales Rep in the commercial fitness industry, currently Conditioning Coach
Sports/activities in order of time and preference: SUP : Stand Up Paddleboarding, Running, Strength Training,
Exactly how much do you love coffee? I am on a Caffeine IV Drip (my last name is Napp)
Did you play sports when younger? High School and College Basketball
“have to” or “want to”? My current running is almost “have to” as I don’t see it as running but more Stress Reduction. Or maybe, my running is really more like “Self Medicated”
Current injuries: On 10/20/20 I was knocked off my Motorbike and I am still recovering from a broken/bruised Hip. I am lucky to be alive. (more details here than we have room for) I also have a torn labrum left shoulder from Endurance Swimming.
Past injuries, fully recovered:
Torn Patella Tendon, Broken Wrist 1993 (Basketball), Meniscus Surgery in 2009 Left Knee, Hernia: Inguinal R in 2014, and Left side in 2019, Skin cancer – about 6 years ago. No recurrence since.
Past injuries that effect today: Left Shoulder is not fully back, but otherwise healthy. (swears by the training benefits of the powerplate)
Age when I stopped recovering quickly from injuries: I believe at any age – your body wants to heal…but probably around 50.
Medications I currently use: Albuterol (mild Asthma – good airway dilator)
Medications I was able to stop using once I started training: Less Albuterol, use virtually no aspirin or Advil.
Supplements I currently use: Vit D, Turmeric, Vit C, Iodine, Barleans Fish/Flax oil, Beet, Ashwagandha, Fenugreek, I do a Budwig Cocktail of Protein Powder Pomegranate, and Borleans 369 as Breakfast drink.
Dietary choices or restrictions: 90% plant, Fish, eggs and I eat a head of Broccoli 4-5 days a week (natural sun protection) for lunch I still consume more sugar than might be wise. Difficult to currently reduce.
Average hours of sleep: 7 and think I would do better on 7.5
Do you track your quality of sleep? Not formally on a watch or system but I do judge energy level and quality of training based on previous night rest
Greatest achievement of being a 50+ athlete: My greatest achievement would not be one event, it would be the grand total of my life in Sports. I’ve been very good, but not one of the Greats…
All American Triathlete at age 50 (2007)
Ironman Wisconsin 11:34 at age 50
5 X Boston Marathon Qualifier (semi-pro, got paid twice to run as a conditioning coach. Also got paid to run the London marathon, and the midnight sun in Alaska)
50 Plus Marathons – some including marathon distance trail runs
SUP /RUN age group champ – grand master of the 5k SUP / Run.
Jerry’s lovely wife Pamela is a former birth doula. If you are not familiar with the term: “A doula is a trained professional who provides emotional, physical and informational support to new and expectant parents before, during and after birth, and in the early postpartum period”. Today, she’s the co-founder of SUP Weeki and her days are still filled with providing emotional, physical and information support – but now, her newborns are novice paddleboarders. SUP has brought a more peaceful, calmer world to Pam’s days and she says with complete sincerity, “this has changed my life”. Pam represents the art side of this interview.
The art of SUP’ing in Pam’s words…
The first time on the river, Pam knew this was her happy place. The river, the quiet, the entirety of the area just resonated. “I fell in love with paddleboarding the moment I stood up on one over 12 years ago. I love being in or on the water. I loved horseback riding growing up and consider my paddleboard to be my water horse. We are on the water just about every day – paddleboarding either with guests, or just to relax and paddle. It’s always about the experience, the joy of being on the river. Each teaching session is like a really fun surprise you want to share with someone new. It is part of our lifestyle, and we believe we’ll be paddleboarding as long as we are on this earth”.
50+ in 50 seconds with Pamela Napp
Athlete: Pamela Napp
Basic Biometrics: 5’8” – 135 pounds – 15% body fat – BP is 109/62
Occupation when not participating in your sport: Paddleboard Instructor & owner of SUP Weeki
Sports/activities in order of time and preference: Paddleboarding, swimming, walking
Exactly how much do you love coffee? No caffeine, ever. (Tried drinking green tea for health benefits & would have slight headaches from it. No caffeine, no headaches)
Did you play sports when younger? Cheerleader, horseback riding, played basketball, volleyball & ran track
“have to” or “want to”? All optional physical activity is because I “want” to
Past injuries that effect today: Very thankfully, none
Age when I stopped recovering quickly from injuries: No injuries to recover from at this point
Medications I currently use: No medications
Medications I was able to stop using once I started training: No medications
Supplements I currently use: Brevail (plant lignans), Multi-Vitamin (Dr. Fuhrman), Iodine, Camu Camu, B12, vegan DHA & EPA
Dietary choices or restrictions: Vegan – Nutrarian: promotes whole, minimally processed foods, especially fresh veggies, fruits, legumes, nuts & seeds.
Average hours of sleep: 7 hours a night, should be more
Do you track your quality of sleep? No. Have always slept soundly & well.
Greatest achievement of being a 50+ athlete: I do consider myself an athlete, just not a “competitive” one.
Specific to the sport of SUP’ing
SUP Weeki is now in their 10th year of operation. They maintain a rotation of about 20 boards – enough variety to calm the beginner or challenge their returning clients – and almost 65% of their clients return for a new experience. Their small home based business has garnered quite a bit of PR, including articles about paddling with the manatees by the local FOX affiliate and the SUP Paradise on the Weeki Wachee, from Endurance Sports Florida.
How were you introduced to SUP?
A triathlete friend introduced me to the sport. I was getting tired of swim, bike, run – and SUP looked like a lot of fun – but I was also thinking of this as my 4th competitive sport. If you’re not the very top of your sport but want to be on top of the podium….you need to find an obscure sport. At the time, SUP was pretty obscure.
My real love for SUP started when we moved to Weeki Wachee and bought a house right on the water. Pam purchased our first board and we’ve never looked back.
How often do you teach?
Pam – 6 days per week.
Jerry – 2-3 times per week.
On average, we have 6 students per day. Weekends start early, as early as 8am, but we usually schedule sessions at 10am and 1pm.
Is every teaching experience completely different?
Pam: Depends on who’s teaching! I have a very specific teaching system. Of course, it’s tailored to the family, but the process is the process, and it remains consistent. If Jerry is teaching – it’s never the same twice! And my approach with Dad’s is usually different than with Mom’s. Mom’s typically will listen, absorb the lesson. Dad’s often want to immediately get on the board and start paddling, usually pretty wobbly. Mom’s are about the technique, Dad’s are about the physical struggle.
Favorite stories of first timers?
So many! From the Mom who started out in tears because she almost drowned as a child, but finished the day laughing and enjoying the board. And the woman in her 70’s who fell off her board maybe 7 times, but refused to quit. What determination! She finally got her balance and remained standing for the rest of the lesson. No matter how they start, you can see it on their faces when their bodies learn the movement and balance. Your brain is allowed to drift and dream, and experience the joy of being outside, gliding on the river. More stories than we have time for…
Is SUP purely recreational, or is there a competitive side?
There is a competitive side – such as this hybrid event where Jerry (of course he did) won his age group – but the real growth in SUP is recreational. The “being out in nature” surpasses the competitive side of the sport.
How does SUP change life off the board?
Jerry: SUP is tremendous stability training – the body is constantly making micro adjustments. We have both improved our full body strength, with no joint pain. This is great training for injury prevention. I would highly recommend NASM’s “Stand up and Succeed” paddleboard workout.
Pam: Recently, I was off the board for a week. When I got back to our paradise and back on the board, I realized how much stronger I’d become from teaching and paddling. Editor’s note: Pam is now 62, so I had to ask, “as strong as you were maybe 10 years ago”? I can hear the smile over the phone as she responds, “probably more fit today than 20 years ago”.
Advice for anyone thinking about purchasing their first paddle board?
Jerry: Think of a board like a bike – your first purchase should probably be very versatile, an all-around board. At least 30” wide for added stability. You don’t want to fight your first board, you want to paddle comfortably, smoothly – using less effort. A touring board would be a happy medium for most. And of course- try before you buy if it all possible.
More about physical / mental health and community…
Jerry: More research comes out every day on how exercise benefits the mind. Simple yet profound health improvement from both activity and being outside. “No pill yet that produces anything close to the benefits of exercise. If so it would be the most prescribed drug in the world”.
Pam: Physical activity is great for our mental, physical & spiritual health. The YMCA had it right all those years ago! “Body, Mind & Spirit”. And similar to my time as a birth doula, I can help instill confidence in these women – showing them what they can achieve.
Why? What motivates you to put yourself through this suffering?
Jerry: I really love introducing people to the outdoors. Their reaction is a tremendous motivator. But one of the reasons I love endurance sports is because finally, my body is moving at the same pace as my mind. These rhythmic movements are calming. This is meditation.
Pam: Suffering? No suffering going on here. Part of the motivation is being able to work/teach from home, no travel required.
What singular achievements are you most proud of?
Jerry: Lots of competitive achievements over a lifetime, but specific to SUP – we were the only paddleboards for the first year in the area, we were the frontrunners on this part of the river. And life can beat you up, pull you apart emotionally if you’re not careful. SUP brought us together. Editor’s note: this sentiment is the reason for the engraved plaque attached to their dock: “Love Respect Protect”.
Pam: The most amazing blessing for me is when we pursued special permitting from our home that allowed us to share the awesome activity of paddleboarding with those looking to try our sport. The day the county commissioners voted “yes” was a great achievement. It was not easy to accomplish, but we stuck with it & believed in the great benefit this would bring to those that tried it. It has proved to be a wonderful experience for the many people that have paddled with us. We are extremely thankful we were given the opportunity to do this, and at the same time, have it as a business.
Let’s discuss injuries or medical conditions that effect your training and/or goals:
None – N/A (same answer from both)
Outside of your sport, how do you prepare your body for the stressors of that sport?
Jerry: strength training, stretching, running and…powerplate.
Pam: Honestly, carrying & lifting paddleboards around is an awesome strength training activity.
Nutrition / diet: has training changed anything about how you eat or drink?
Jerry: I am intentional about staying well hydrated daily & taking the time to eat well.
Pam: My brother’s open heart surgerywas the biggest cause of changing my diet. Vegetarian would not be the right definition – I’m more of a nutritarian, as defined by Dr. Fuhrman.
Recovery? (not post-exercise, but throughout the year)
Jerry: hot tubs, power plate
Pam: listening to my body, knowing when to back off, taking more time to fully recover
Any “non-exercise” forms of preventative care? (massage, chiro, personal trainer, blood work, etc)
Both: March – August is the crazy season. Business is much slower from November – February, so we have a built in seasonal recovery period.
How healthy were your parents at your age?
Jerry: My parents were always active & adventurous. We took a lot of family vacations, camping, hiking & swimming. Great memories. My dad was limited in his later years due to hip problems, but my mom is still going strong at 91 years young! She rides her recumbent trike every day.
Pam: My parents were never what I considered “healthy.” I think genetics were in their favor as they did not have an optimal diet ever, rarely had much physical activity and my dad still lived till he was 81 and my mom is still with us at 84. Dad had a bypass. Mom has stints. My brother already had a bypass. Grandma had heart disease. The lifespan is there – but healthspan has suffered. When I was young, 18 in fact, I decided I did not want to be like my parents, for example smoking, drinking alcohol & being overweight, so through the years I pursued healthy living options. When my parents were my age they were very stressed financially & physically. What saved them is their faith. That gave them the fortitude that they needed to overcome the obstacles in their life.
Any family history you’ve been able to avoid?
Pam: Heart disease is a big factor in my family on both sides and one of the reasons I am now a “Nutritarian”.
Jerry: A tremendous amount. Heart disease & cancer have been a challenge on both sides of my family.
The health benefits of training / competing: is that a focus? Or just a happy and beneficial outcome?
Jerry: A bit of both. Early in life, I found that movement feels good, I wasn’t looking at these sports through the prism of health. Today – it’s nice to know that if I wanted to run a marathon, I still could.
Pam – “When you love yourself, you take care of yourself” I don’t compete – I just have fun – so yes, in this case, health is a wonderfully beneficial outcome.
How do you feel – physically and emotionally – when you miss several days of training/activity?
Pam: That would be a bummer. I would not be happy. We stay active daily, not training, just active. If we go on vacation, it is usually a sup vacation. We rarely go more than a day without some kind of outdoor activity. We are affected by activity, it does make us feel emotionally sound.
Jerry (the physiologist): this forced rest would be what my body needed.
Do you find a supportive community in your sport / activity?
Jerry: We have fun with other paddleboaders that we meet out on the river, a kinship of sorts. Like today, I met up with a paddleboarder on the way down river and had a nice visit. As in most sports, those that participate in your sport feel like family.
Pam: other than repeat clients, our community is our local church – and our Facebook family. (editor’s note: there may not be a large local SUP community – but their company – SUP Weeki has more than 23,000 followers on facebook)
Is your family supportive?
Yes, they think we are a little over the top, but are happy we have something we love to do.
Putting on your coaching hat…
What advice would you give your younger self?
Jerry: Just do it. If it is something you want to try, what do you have to lose? Give it your all and have fun in the process. Enjoy the journey. In addition to athletics, focus on establishing financial peace. Having financial stability gave us options to make decisions, such as moving to this house on the river. Last piece of wisdom: You cannot put a price on the ability to be outside daily.
Pam: Just go for it. Make a decision, and do it. If you fail – try again!
What advice would you give any 50+ individual that believes their athletic days are better left in the past?
Jerry: Wow – 50 seems pretty young to stop doing anything, or to leave it in the past. “A body in motion stays in motion.” It’s not over till you say it’s over, so keep on keeping on. You will be better mentally, physically & spiritually for it.
Pam: That’s unfortunate. Remember, you don’t have to impress anyone, you only answer to yourself. Too often, I hear “I’d never be able to do that”. I smile and reply with “Age is not the limit. Whether you think you can, or cannot – you’re probably right”. I’m usually able to persuade them enough to schedule that first lesson.
Any final hard-earned wisdom you’d like to share to the 60+ crowd?
Jerry: They might not even be aware of how much they would love doing this. This is fitness from the ground up. This is primal. Connects you with the water.
Pam: We are as young as we feel, so continue to feel good, not by pushing yourself hard or into an injury, but by thoroughly enjoying the activities you choose to pursue. After 60 we realize that life is short, so stay engaged with the world through your body. That is truly what keeps us young.
Like other 60+ athletes, Jerry and Pam have discovered the compounding formula of regular activity + nature + community. Both in their 60’s, they are wonderful examples that Age Is absolutely No Barrier to health, fitness or The Joy of SUP.
Questions for Jerome or Pamela?
Include any questions in the comment section below and I’ll forward their replies.