In the almost five years I lived in Boulder, I ticked a lot of boxes off my bucket list: I tubed the creek, shopped for organic kale at the farmers’ market, and dutifully sweat my way through yoga classes and “easy” foothills hikes. But when my coworkers recently suggested we do a SUPilates class—yes, Pilates on a stand-up paddleboard on Boulder Reservoir—I realized that was one Boulder experience I had yet to partake in. I exuberantly agreed and paid the $40(!) fee to book my spot. 

Then the nerves set in. I possessed, to put it flatteringly, limited experience doing both activities on their own. How would I fare combining the two? Would I embarrass myself in front of my coworkers by losing my balance and plunging into the water? Also, what does one wear to SUPilates?

Luckily, the day before the class, Bolder Pilates founder and instructor Donna Rosen sent out a detailed email that addressed most of my questions. Rosen has been teaching Pilates for nearly two decades and offering seasonal SUPilates classes for three, and she’s designed the latter course to be accessible to novices like myself. That said, her suggestion to wear “quick-drying clothing or just something that moves with you and can get wet” didn’t entirely qualm my fears of falling into the water.

The morning of the class was overcast and cool for mid-June. After paying the $7 fee to enter Boulder Reservoir, I located the boathouse building Rosen described in her email, signed the paperwork for the Rocky Mountain Paddleboard rental of board and life jacket, and made my way down to the small beach  where the class had gathered.  

Courtesy of Bolder Pilates

Rosen led us through a quick warmup series on the sand, and then it was time to set sail. I didn’t necessarily feel graceful as I followed Rosen across the water, but paddleboarding is a mercifully easy skill to pick up and I was competent enough. The sun began to poke out from behind the clouds, the mountains were looming majestic to the west, and the breeze ruffled my hair. The urge to snap a selfie was strong, but I’d left my phone back at shore in fear of water damage. 

Once we all reached a shallow clearing, we arranged ourselves into a semicircle facing Rosen before dropping our anchors. And then the real workout began. Rosen led us through a series of Pilates movements, some standing, some on our backs, and some incorporating the row. While the movements themselves weren’t necessarily challenging, repeated sets alighted a steady burn in my muscles and a light sheen of sweat on my brow. 

(MORE: The Best Paddling Adventures in the West)

There was also the additional challenge of keeping the board balanced beneath me. Rosen describes the experience as “a Pilates mat class where you’re using the paddleboard as a mat. It’s giving you an unstable surface, which takes so much more core work to stabilize.” Indeed, I found the balance-oriented moves—holding a side-plank or doing small jumps, for example—to be extremely challenging. (My calves, arms, and abs were all lightly sore the next day.)

After about 45 minutes of hundreds, roll-backs, roll-ups, bridges, side-planks, and quadruped balances, we picked up our anchors and set off to return to the beach. It was then that I finally had the embarrassing moment I’d dreaded: In attempting to maneuver my way around a dock, I instead pitched my board into it head-on, just feet away from a large group of children and camp counselors. And while it took an excruciatingly long time to extricate myself from the snare of the dock, I eventually made it back to shore unscathed and dry. 

Can I afford to make a habit out of $47 SUPilates classes? No way. But was it worth it to say I’ve done it, even if I didn’t get the selfie to prove it? Absolutely.

If you go: Bolder Pilates’ next SUPilates class is on Thursday, August 29 from 5:45–7 p.m. at Boulder Reservoir, 5565 51st St., Boulder. The class and board rental is $40, paid in advance, plus the $7 entry fee to the reservoir upon arrival. Rosen plans to host a post-class happy hour, so bring refreshments and plan to stay and enjoy the sunset.

Tip: Depending on weather and demand, Rosen may add an additional SUPilates class to the schedule in September. 2020 SUPilates classes will commence in June. Check the Bolder Pilates schedule for more information

Callie Sumlin
Callie Sumlin
Callie Sumlin is a writer living in Westminster, and has been covering food and sustainability in the Centennial State for more than five years.