It’s 2 p.m. on a summer Tuesday and the wind is whipping up something fierce across Penn Lake. Dockside at Muskoka’s Deerhurst Resort, a flotilla of rental boats—kayaks, canoes—are being blown willy nilly down the lake. Paddlers, most of them resort guests new to the sport, are giggling, gasping, and randomly shouting inane instructions at one another: “Paddle hard right!” “Reverse!” “Hey, you’re gonna hit us!” “Watchout!”
In the midst of this mayhem, a calm soul approaches. She’s sporting a bikini top, a trucker’s hat, and floatable sunglasses, and she’s perched perfectly on a stand-up paddle board, also known as a SUP (as in “sup-per.”) She’s navigating through the carnage of rental boats as if she does it daily (which she probably does), and as for the wind… what wind? Steph Ouelette-Rienks, owner of Muskoka’s SUPTOPIA is at one with it.
Within moments she’s on the Deerhurst beach addressing her clients. They’re a mix of women of a certain age — 30- and 40-somethings — dressed in Lululemon from head to foot, here for their first-ever SUP Yoga session.
In The Beginning…
SUP Yoga started in Hawaii, a form of yoga fused with surfing that has spread in a few short years across the US, Thailand, India, Europe, Australia… and yes, Muskoka. It consists of a sequence of yoga poses — downward dog, warrior, upward facing dog — executed on a surfboard while floating on a lake, river, or even an ocean. The challenges of balancing on waves and in wind add extra work for the core, naturally. SUP yoga is fast approaching the popularity of Pilates.
Steph Ouelette-Rienks first spotted SUP yoga in Oz. As a competitive water skier—she’s been a member of Team Canada — Steph had been travelling the world wowing crowds in water-ski shows, including a stint in Australia where SUP yoga quickly caught her attention. She headed to Goa, India for a seven-week course in Ashtanga Yoga, then flew back to Canada and invested in a fleet of BOGA Yoga Boards and steered her SUPTOPIA truck and trailer toward Muskoka.
For Brides, Besties & More
By Summer 2015 she’d secured some regular stints, teaching SUP yoga classes nearly every day at summer resorts like Deerhurst and Clevelands House. Resort guests sign up for sessions, but the public can join in, too – you don’t have to be a resort guest to practice yoga with SUPTOPIA. Steph takes her classes on the road, as well. Cottagers hire her to come to them for two-hour private and group sessions. Bridal showers and SUP hen parties are a big thing, too—it’s one way for a bride and her besties to chill-out before the wedding mayhem.
Speaking of mayhem, back on Penn Lake on this day Steph steers her SUP newbies out into the windswept water, calmly anchoring each board in the midst of a little bay, then doing sunshine salutations and commencing her warm up. The BOGA boards are surprisingly stable and everyone catches on quickly — regardless of previous yoga or SUP experience. The session proceeds for nearly two hours, and despite the maylay of boat renters about, it’s incredibly relaxing. Their anxious voices give way to the gentle sounds of Steph’s voice, waves lapping, and the wind — yes that fierce wind — in the trees. Afterall, as Steph likes to say, “there’s no place like om.” By the end of SUP yoga at SUPTOPIA, all the newbies are at one with it.
For more info on SUPTOPIA, see www.muskokaSUPyoga.com
Group photo: SUPTOPIA
All remaining photos: Lori Knowles, MuskokaStyle