Kate Grove had been practicing yoga for more than a decade when she attended a class taught by a friend in Ocean City that had a twist.
Participants practiced yoga positions in the water ... on a paddleboard.
"Any extra little shift, and you can end up in the water," Grove said. "One class, and I fell in love. I knew I had to do it."
Paddleboard yoga is booming in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, and a number of waterfront studios have sprung up throughout the area in recent years.
"It's exploded. It's unbelievable," Grove said. "I went from teaching a couple times a week to teaching anywhere from four or five classes a day. It is huge, and it's just going to get bigger and bigger."
Grove, who co-owns Sunrise SUP — or stand-up paddleboard — in Edgewater with her husband, Shendan, said the sport offers a unique way to refresh the mind and body while enjoying the serenity of local waterways.
"When you're out there, you've got to focus on yourself," she said. "You've got to know your body."
In an area defined by boating, swimming and water sports, the popularity of paddleboard yoga offers intimate access to the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.
The Groves started Sunrise SUP three years ago. Kate Grove said that as the activity has caught on, group sessions have become a hit with local waterfront communities, sports teams, businesses — there are even paddleboard yoga bachelorette parties.
How often do practitioners take a plunge into the water? Rarely, she said, unless they are attempting particularly difficult yoga poses. Inexperienced yogis can quickly acclimate thanks to specially designed — and cleverly named — paddleboard yoga mats such as the Boga Board and the Padillac.
"This is a sport that everybody can do. It's a sport that you can share with your friends, with your family, with your children," Grove said. "That whole experience you have on the water, it's a great way to experience this area.
While the outdoor sessions are subjected to winds, currents, precipitation and temperature, Anne Arundel County Department of Recreation and Parks is planning to dip its toe in the paddleboard yoga craze with an indoor version.
This fall, the department will offer its first stand up paddleboard classes at the North Arundel Aquatic Center in Glen Burnie. Jacque Hurman, the center's facility manager and recreation supervisor, was hooked the moment she stumbled upon paddleboard yoga while trying to rent boards for a water safety event in May.
"I thought, 'We need to try this in the fall,'" Hurman said. "It's very much trending right now, and it sounded really neat. So we figured out the logistics of how it could work for us, talked it all out, and it turned out to be a wonderful opportunity."
North Arundel Aquatic will host three seven-week classes on Thursday mornings in the fall and winter, taught by instructors from Twisted Creek Paddlesports in Annapolis.
To replicate the serenity of practicing yoga out on the water, 75-minute classes will be held before the pool opens to the general public.
"It will be quiet and yoga-esque in here, so there won't be other people swimming laps or disturbing the water. It will just be this program," Hurman said.
"The facility is quite beautiful and we have windows on three sides of the pool, so when the sun is coming up in the morning, it should be very pretty," she said.
Aquatic fitness classes have already proven to be a hit at the center, which offers a wide range of daily aerobics workouts for people of all ages.
"We've had aqua Zumba about four years, and it's rare that we aren't completely full with 40 people in the class. It takes up half the pool," Hurman said.
The stand-up paddleboard yoga sessions will offer a more intimate environment, with classes topping out at six participants — for now.
"We're starting small, and we're hoping to grow from there," Hurman said. "We're looking for six in the first class, but if we see a boom with this, there's no telling what else we can do with it."