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Surfboard yoga offered at Coralville's Downward Dog studio

Base-mounted surfboard mimics instability of water

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CORALVILLE — For landlocked Iowans, the only way to get a surfboard workout is to go on vacation. Right?

Wrong.

Downward Dog Yoga & Fitness in Coralville offers yoga on a surfboard, a surf-inspired class done on a specially-designed surfboard attached to a base that mimics that instability of water.

“It’s really helped my yoga practice because there’s no cheating,” Downward Dog owner and instructor Kelli Slocum said. “You engage your muscles to balance or you fall off.”

Not that falling off is so bad. It happened several times to me during a 45-minute class.

Once, I was holding a tree pose, standing tall with one sole planted on my knee, when my board started to wiggle. The wiggle turned to a wobble and I wiped out. (Really I just hopped to the floor, but I’m trying to use my surf lingo.)

Slocum guided the class through basic yoga moves like downward dog, plank, warrior and pigeon — all more challenging on a surfboard. I especially liked the boat pose where we sat, lifted our feet and raised pretend paddles to swivel and churn the “water” on each side.

Another move evoked skateboarding as we stood on one foot and swept the other to the side as if propelling ourselves forward.

“Your tendency when skiing or paddleboarding is to get really tense,” Slocum said. “It’s a lot easier if you relax, but keep your core engaged.”

Yoga on a surfboard was inspired by Slocum’s own water adventures.

“I fell in love with the stand-up paddleboard when we went on vacation in Costa Rica,” she said. “Unfortunately, I live in a place where I can’t do that all the time.”

Slocum saw SurfSet founders Mike Hardwick and Sarah Ponn pitching the surfboard workouts on the ABC show “Shark Tank” in 2012. The entrepreneurs ended up with “shark” Mark Cuban as an investor and now have hundreds of studios around the world.

Slocum bought 10 boards and became a certified SurfSet instructor last year. Downward Dog became the first Iowa fitness center to offer SurfSet classes in July, she said. There is now one other Iowa studio, Surf Inspired Fitness, in Davenport.

Some instructors use the boards for cardio workouts, while others use resistance bands. Slocum prefers yoga.

Lori Lasansky, 55, of Iowa City, started taking yoga on a surfboard in August.

“I think it’s a great way to practice balance,” she said. “I often take the (traditional yoga) class afterward and find it much easier” after being on the surfboard.

Tea Ho, 42, of Iowa City, brought her 11-year-old daughter, Lexi Ellermeier, to class on a recent Saturday. While Ho expertly executed complicated moves, including the splits, on her board, Lexi embraced the wiggle and wobble.

“When we (Lexi and younger sister, Katiya) first went, we wanted the class to go longer because we liked it so much,” she said.

Downward Dog has no mirrors, for which I am grateful, because I have a feeling I looked pretty goofy as I tried to hang 10. But moving swiftly between poses made me sweat and worked core muscles often neglected during traditional cardio workouts.

Also helpful were Slocum’s shouts of “amazing!” and “beautiful!” and her hip playlist, which included “Downtown” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, “Geronimo” by Sheppard and “Cheerleader” by Omi.

If your fitness regime needs a vacation, you’ll be stoked for yoga on a surfboard.

Downward Dog offers the class at 8 a.m. Saturday and 4:15 p.m. Monday. New students can get two weeks of classes, including traditional yoga, barre and pilates, for $25. A one-hour vinyasa yoga class is free of charge each Tuesday at 7 a.m.

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