I met up with Kelly Simmons of Koastal Paddle Board Yoga to discuss what inspired her to start her business, why she loves yoga on a paddleboard, and her plans to do it full-time.
What inspired you to start Koastal SUP Yoga?
I moved here in March 2017 and I got on my first paddleboard for a yoga class that April. I remember doing boat pose while the water gently rocked the board, that’s when I fell in love with it. I knew the basic ins and outs of yoga as a practice and the paddleboard was just a way to get outside and enjoy nature. I kept taking classes, and the woman that was teaching the classes wanted to sell that part of the business and just focus on teacher training, so I thought I can be that person and went for it.
Were you a yoga teacher at that point?
No, I wasn’t but I had been practicing yoga (mainly Kripalu) since 1986 so it was always something I wanted to do. For me to teach Yoga SUP I had to get my 200-hour yoga certification. Once I did that I took the SUP certification as one of my required continuing ed credits.
Where are you from and what brought you to St. Augustine?
I grew up in Massachusetts and lived in New York. I ended up in St. Augustine for my job. There was a position they wanted me to check out and they gave me two weeks to see if I liked the area, the people I worked with and if I would want to live here. When I arrived, I was living in a hotel near the outlets and that area didn’t appeal to me, so when a woman from work brought me up to where she lived in Palencia, I fell in love and that’s when I decided to stay in St. Augustine, rent there for a year and explore the area more.
How do you like living in St. Augustine?
It’s amazing…all these years I was living up north and now I get to live and work where people vacation.
What do you love most about SUP Yoga?
Being able to combine yoga with being on the water in nature. There are times we have dolphins and turtles swimming around, beautiful birds flying over us, and rainbows greeting us in the morning…it doesn’t get better than that.
How do you teach someone who has never been on a paddleboard?
At the beginning of each class, I go over the parts of the board, the paddle, and teach the basic forward stroke for paddleboarding. Since we have to paddle to sites we need to know how to use the board. When we get to the site for our yoga flow, we are almost parking the board so I teach my student’s different types of strokes so they know how to maneuver the board properly.
Where do your classes take place?
We launch at the Lighthouse pier and paddle to the south end of the Salt Run where we anchor up in a cove. It works out well since there isn’t a lot of boat traffic and the water is calm.
What type of yoga is your class based on?
Mainly Hatha yoga, my training is in Kripalu which is more breath-focused and body awareness. I have all levels coming to me so I mainly focus on getting the postures to work for the individuals’ bodies.
How does yoga differ in the studio vs the paddleboard?
The difference between the board and the studio is balance. When you come up to a standing posture on the board your feet will be wider apart than in the studio. It doesn’t feel natural at first, but it’s better for balance. Also, you can’t look down on the board since everything is moving. It’s best to find a spot on the horizon, like a house or a spot on the marsh.
Does anyone ever fall off?
Yes, and usually it’s me. However, once people fall and realize it’s just water, the fear is gone and they tend to push it a little more.
What days do you normally teach classes?
Currently Saturday and Sunday. I did teach on Tuesdays for a bit and that worked out well, especially for other yoga instructors who teach weekend classes, so I plan to add Tuesdays again soon.
Do you teach yoga in the studio as well?
Yes, I teach a class at Anastasia Fitness on Wednesdays. I’m also a Personal Trainer and about to work with my first client there.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not paddleboarding?
Teaching yoga, my favorite thing to do is anything that makes you feel good and healthy.
A lot of people come to yoga because they are older and may have an injury or a chronic issue. That hour of yoga becomes a bit of respite for them where they just think about their breath, and forget about any pain they might have and I love being able to provide that for them.
What are your goals for the business?
My goal is to do this full-time. I’ve spent a lot of time this year doing demos at health fairs and Anastasia Fitness. I’m also forming partnerships with other local businesses to plan affiliate marketing where we give discounts and support each other. You can find those partners on my website at https://www.koastalsupyoga.com/partners