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Paddle Out, Cool Down

Paddle Out, Cool Down

Yoga at Whale Creek Marina
Looking for a fun new way to stay fit? Try Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga at Whale Creek Marina

“Inhale, exhale.”

A reminder we all need to slow down; a reminder that we all need pockets of peace in our lives.

Photo courtesy of Whale Creek Marina

In Strathmere, just off of Ocean City’s south end, tucked away on the bayside of the island, you’ll find Whale Creek Marina. Back in the summer of 2018, instructor Nicole Baughman began teaching a class of paddle board yoga. The class continues today every Saturday at 10AM. This refreshing morning class will leave you wishing you could spend the whole day inhaling fresh air, exhaling your stresses, and stretching out on a paddle board in a calm bay surrounded by the tall, wispy, emerald bay grass.

The marina asks that you make a reservation before coming into the class; this allows the process to go smoothly when you arrive. At Whale Creek, you don’t need to worry about floating off to sea while you’re in child’s pose. After a short paddle-out to create distance between the yogis and the boats, the Marina built an anchoring area that allows you to clip your paddleboard into place.

Nicole is kind and accepting of all skill levels in her beginner-level session. If this is your first time practicing yoga or heading out on a paddle board, she’s eager to demonstrate the basics of both. If the yoga mat is already your happy place, she includes different adjustments for two to three skill levels for many of the yoga poses that she includes in her lesson. You can choose to challenge yourself, or you can choose to stick to the basics of the session.

“The paddle yoga is just for fun, you get a workout, and you try something new,” Nicole said. “You get out of your head of thinking ‘I can’t’ or ‘I could never do that.’”

Many yoga studios and gyms have been closed for months because of the COVID pandemic, but participants can easily distance themselves from one another on a paddle board. Stress has no place in yoga, so the paddle board method allows you to be worry-free and six feet apart.

“It’s the only time where you can really turn your mind off for a bit and see what you can do,” Nicole explained.

On the Saturday morning I took the class, it took me a few minutes to gauge what I could do. As I finally centered myself on the board, I found myself becoming more secure in my balance as the hour went on.

“Look at the horizon line to steady yourself,” Nicole said, giving a helpful tip to keep yourself from wobbling and splashing into the water.

Nicole’s lesson often repeated a few simple poses, such as downward dog or upward dog, that helped me reorient myself if a new pose got challenging. The simple poses helped me develop my skill and try out the more ambitious poses. I stood up into my warrior pose, proudly, after a few shaky tries, but I finally stood with my arms facing outward and looked out onto the bay.

My favorite pose of the morning made me feel like a floating starfish. Laying on your back on the board, you let your hands and feet lean off the board and sit in the water. In this pose, you can just leave your eyes open or closed and allow the cool water to bring your focus back into your breathing.

At the end, Nicole invited the class to paddle around for a few minutes and explore the small bay area outside the marina. We got to see a few large birds, small fish, and got that last-minute arm workout in with the paddle back to the dock. The staff at the dock is quick to meet you and help you dismount the paddleboard with their masks on for comfort and safety.

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“After hot yoga I feel that ‘yoga high’ where I just feel like I’m so energized, like I can conquer this day,” Nicole said.

She found the practice of yoga infectious when she began incorporating it into her workout.

If you’re looking to change up your morning workout, to try something that you’ve never done before, to relax and let go of your work week, to get out on the water, to challenge your body, try the Whale Creek Marina’s Saturday morning yoga class. It helped me get out of my comfort zone, even just for an hour. The class runs into September, so it’s not too late to get your reservation in for this Saturday.

I’ll admit: I couldn’t do every pose, and I certainly wobbled plenty of times, but at the end of the hour I felt as strong as if I had just successfully completed Nicole’s headstand challenge. Yoga is personal, especially on your own paddle board. It’s just you, the still water beneath you, and the sky above you, and this class is a great way to start off your morning.

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