ProStaffer of the Month: Mary Lou Cerami

Aqua-Bound’s ProStaffer of the Month for April 2018 is SUP and SUP Yoga instructor, Mary Lou Cerami. Let’s meet Chicago-native, Mary Lou…

aquabound prostaffer mary lou cerami

AB: How did you get started in SUP? What do you love about it?

MARY LOU: I still remember my first attempt at SUP—I was terrified of falling in and could think of nothing else! My body was stiff and movement was minimal. I was a nervous wreck when I finally made it back on land.

It was that experience that shaped me to be the teacher I am today. SUP is so easy to learn if we just remember to relax..It’s the fear that holds us back. What I love most about it is that overcoming that fear and finding our natural flow is the ultimate parallel to life.

AB: Why SUP yoga? What got you into it and why do you promote it?

MARY LOU: For me, SUP and yoga are the same. As a practicing Yogi, it's not difficult to find yoga in something I love. It's helpful to note that yoga is so much more than a collection of poses, and SUP Yoga is so much more than performing poses on a board.

Some of the discoveries you’ll make in a SUP Yoga class:

  • The first time you just stand up and simply stand. Not reacting, just feeling completely connected to the water under your board.
  • Realizing, while in downward dog, the awesome view of the blue sky through the window of your legs.

And it's more than a really great way to exercise your whole body—it’s an incredible way to connect to a deeper level within yourself and also the world we live in.

Our environment is such a prominent part of the SUP Yoga experience. It becomes part of each pose you attempt. We hold classes at Montrose Beach on Lake Michigan, and every factor of the weather plays a part. But with every challenge comes growth, and with no shortage of poses to try on a board, our potential for growth is huge.

AB: How do you give back to your community through SUP?

MARY LOU: One organization I wholeheartedly support is the Surfrider Chicago Chapter, a non-profit committed to preserving our lakes, rivers and beaches. Also, every year since 2011 I've been a part of the annual SUP Race to benefit young adults with cancer.

Another big event, organized by Kayak Chicago, is the annual Clean Sweep. As a community we paddle out to help clean up our Chicago River, the main thoroughfare through downtown Chicago. I'm typically the only one on my paddleboard, but kayaks are provided free of charge to everyone who participates.

AB: How are you involved in your local SUP scene?

MARY LOU: For me, checking out the local SUP scene means getting out with my friends, of whom the vast majority paddle. This could include a wintertime SUP suited up in our cozy drysuits. Or we could head out on a 3-mile paddle to one of the water intake cribs in the center of the lake.

But nothing compares to being on our boards during sunrise. As the sun makes its steady way over the horizon we stand in awe enjoying the show!

standup paddleboarding at sunrise
Mary Lou and her friends viewing a Lake Michigan sunrise by paddleboard

AB: How do you introduce new paddlers to SUP?

MARY LOU: SUP Yoga is just like it sounds: yoga postures practiced on a standup paddleboard. The paddleboard makes a perfect yoga mat. It's wide, stable and challenging—yet suitable for all levels. Beginners included!

If you've never been on a SUP, the notion of practicing yoga while learning to paddleboard can sound incredibly intimidating. As an ACA accredited L2 SUP Instructor, I teach a progression of yoga and balance techniques that get everyone comfortable on their boards quickly and effectively.

From the start you learn how to correctly stand up on your board, paddle in a straight line and maneuver your board in any direction. These basics are part of every class I teach.

AB: Do you work with any specific groups with SUP?

MARY LOU: Paddleboarding offers an amazing full-body workout and is a favorite cross-training activity for skiers, snowboarders and anyone looking for a new outdoor workout. Paddling on a SUP provides an amazing cardio and core-body workout, while adding yoga brings another dimension to the sport. And if you can stand up, you can paddle. Its ease of use is the single greatest appeal of paddleboarding.

SUP Yoga attracts many different types of people for many different reasons. The most prevalent I've personally seen is from those seeking the challenge. Yogis and non-yogi's alike are drawn to the class, and I welcome all levels—from absolute beginner to advanced athlete.

Interestingly, women have an easier time balancing on a paddleboard than men, especially their first time, because of our lower center of gravity.

AB: Are there any 'how to' events you're involved in?

MARY LOU: One of my favorite annual events marks the transition to longer spring days and the promise of paddling again under a summer sky—Canoecopia, the world's largest paddling expo held every March. I thoroughly enjoy presenting on various topics. These have included: SUP Safety 101, How to SUP with Your Pup, SUP Yoga for Beginners, and Intro to SUP for all levels.

It's great sharing tips and techniques about paddleboarding with an audience who is as enthralled with SUP as I am.

aquabound prostaffer mary lou cerami
Mary Lou out paddleboarding on a misty day

You can connect with Mary Lou on her website: ChicagoSUPYoga.net, and on Facebook and Instagram.

(All photos courtesy of Mary Lou Cerami)

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