Whitworth University First University In The Nation To Offer Stand-Up Paddleboard Class

By Courtney Kinniburgh, 1/25/17

Students in the first ever Aqua Stand-Up Paddleboard class fill the University’s Aquatic Center, demonstrating the popularity of class.

This January term, Whitworth University offered the first aqua stand-up paddleboarding class taught at the collegiate level in the United States. The class combined cardio, flexibility, strength training and balance work into one program, all on a floating, inflatable board.

Whitworth Aquatic Center Assistant Director Patty Murphy has been teaching water classes at Whitworth and in the Spokane community for the past 30 years. Murphy was introduced to the Aqua Stand-Up program through the Aquatic Education Association last summer. After hearing about the class, Murphy contacted the creator of the program directly and arranged for him to come to Spokane to certify her to teach Aqua Stand-Up.

After certification, Murphy proposed the class to Whitworth. “I kept saying ‘You guys, if we can get this here it will take off,’” Murphy said. It was approved for January term and enrolled 20 participants — with 16 more on the waitlist.

“PE 196 Aqua Stand-Up”

The class allows students to go at their own pace, encouraging them to learn the key concepts of paddleboarding.

The class (PE 196) was held in the Whitworth Aquatic center pool for one hour every day. According to Murphy, a one-hour class burns up to 650 calories. “This is really difficult to get in any program,” Murphy said. “You’re able to use your board as your gym. I mean you can do Pilates, you can do cardio, you can do yoga, power yoga, and there’s no cheating.”

According to the PE 196 syllabus, students were to expect “improvement in strength/balance/cardio and muscular conditioning as well as increased flexibility in a fun and dynamic training environment.” By the end of one month of classes, students were able to do squats, jumping jacks, push-ups and a variety of other high-intensity movements on the boards.

Students alternate between cardio and stretching throughout the workout.

The mind behind the program

Aqua Stand-Up paddleboarding is a fitness program inspired by the current paddleboarding fad. Eric Vandendriessche created this workout routine in France as a physical therapy program. After it gained popularity, Vandendriessche introduced it to the United States as a fitness routine.

Vandendriessche designed his own boards and paddles for the program. The aqua stand-up workout routine can be done in any body of water, although most classes are taught in an aquatic center where the boards are tethered to lane lines. This was the structure of the class at Whitworth University.

“I didn’t know that we were going to be tethered although I assumed we would do something like that,” Melia Deters, a student in the first class, said. “That element makes it so much more enjoyable.”

Interest spreads

“I think classes will continue to fill up because every time I talk to people about this class everyone’s so intrigued,” Deters said. “It’s something you’re not going to be able to experience anywhere else.”

Stand-up paddleboarding has not only interested Whitworth students but also caught the attention of the community. Spokane’s KXLY news has been in contact with Murphy to film the class in action and run a story in the next few weeks.

News of this class has spread by word of mouth also. Tori Turnbow, a student at Belhaven University in Mississippi said she heard about the class from a friend at Whitworth, “It would be really interesting to take a class like that,” Turnbow said. “I’ve always wanted to learn how to paddleboard.”

Turnbow said she was also impressed that Whitworth was embracing the trend of aqua stand-up. “It’s cool that it’s starting at Whitworth because it’s a small, Christian school in Spokane Washington that not a lot of people have heard of, it’s not like a big, state university or something,” she said.

Jumping on board

The Whitworth aquatic center offers Water Aerobics and Swimming for Fitness as other physical education classes during January term and the regular semester. “I always hear people raving about our water programs and this is just another example, but it has this really cool element of being out on the water on a paddleboard,” Deters said.

Murphy says she plans to continue teaching paddleboarding and hopefully expand the program by purchasing more boards. “We’re really passionate about our water and we train our athletes in water and do a lot of things that a lot of big universities haven’t done. So we just got on board first, literally.”