AFTER ARLINE THOMAS finished her career as a special education teacher in Marin and Sonoma, she could have whiled away her days in her Sebastopol home with her chatty tuxedo cat, Izzie. But Thomas, 69, has reinvented herself as a part-time stand-up paddleboard guide and SUP yoga instructor at Sea Trek in Sausalito.
How did you get into SUP yoga?
I started practicing four years ago with [SUP instructor] Leigh Claxton. I became a certified stand-up paddleboard instructor a couple of years ago.
Does your age affect how you teach?
I try to be a humble person so I’m not bragging or boasting. What I want is to be an inspiration for people to keep moving at this age. That’s the goal — to get this out to as many people as possible. I want to be the ambassador for senior citizens, showing them I can do this and they can too.
How does SUP help older people?
It’s great for your balance and it’s great for your well-being. My balance is so good now that there are times when I could have fallen and really hurt myself but I haven’t because of SUP yoga.
How do you teach SUP?
There are a couple of theories. Some people, like me, feel it’s better to go gradually, to paddle around on your knees until you get the feel of the thing and then slowly get up. When you feel comfortable, get up and start paddling.
What is the other theory?
Just get right up. Be on the knees and just pop up. I think the more gradual approach makes sense with older people.
What about falling in?
Everyone asks that question.
OK, how many do fall in?
Not very many. The thing is, doing yoga on a paddleboard is just like doing yoga in a studio. If you’re looking around and comparing yourself to others, you’re going to fall in: your focus is not on your balance. You need to be present and not worry about being on the cover of Yoga magazine.
Some tips for learning to SUP?
Keep your eyes on the horizon. When you ride a bike, you don’t look down, do you? It’s the same thing on the board. Keep the paddle head under the water. Reach out, pull it to your hip and take it out. Keep your knees slightly bent. Just relax and enjoy yourself. Don’t try to think about everything.
Arline Thomas, SUP yoga and paddleboard instructor
This article originally appeared in Marin Magazine’s print edition under the headline: “Everyone SUP“.