Downwinders, Weight Loss and HIIT

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When I started SUP surfing I ended up actually gaining weight. I went from 210 or so to about 218 lbs. My reasoning for that was that I was eating everything in sight and I sat down a lot during my sessions.  I also thought that since I was exercising, I could eat whatever I wanted.

Once I started doing downwinders I dropped 20 lbs in a very short period of time…I think a couple months or so. Along with the fact that downwinders are now super fun (after I figured it out) it’s also an incredible way to burn fat and lose weight.  I weighed myself yesterday and I was 193 lbs.  That’s 25 lbs less than I was last year before I started doing downwinders.

My hypotheses was that my body was in the prime fat burning aerobic heart rate range for the duration of the session so I burned more calories and fat.  After doing more reading online, I discovered a term called HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training.  This training proclaims much faster fat and weight loss in a very short period of time.  In a nutshell it’s a short period of intense aerobic exercise (like 20 or 30 sec) followed by a short period of rest (30 to 60 sec).  The claim is that 10 min or so of this HIIT is more effective than an hour of low intensity aerobic exercise at burning fat and losing weight.

After thinking about it, this theory of HIIT is exactly what’s going on during a good downwind run. My downwinders are averaging about 90 min for 8.5 miles with good conditions.  When there’s wind and waves, the pattern is paddle hard to get on the bump and variable paddling to stay in the trough. On good runners, where you can connect 2, 3 or more bumps, there’s a decent amount of rest time where paddling is not necessary.  Maybe it’s not 30 or 60 sec but it’s still rest.  Do that over a 90 min period and you’ve got a super fun HIIT workout that you doesn’t seem like work.

Now cut out a bit of the junk food, add in some supplements and the results can be accelerated.  If I had more will power and cut out the ice cream and snacks I’m sure my results would be better but so far I’m very pleased with my gains.  I think that downwind and distance SUP runs will be very effective and popular weight and fat loss activity in the future.  It’s interesting to follow the progression of this SUP industry.  There are a good number of SUPers that were early adopters to SUP surfing although are now spending large percentages of their SUP time doing downwinders on 14′+ race boards.  I’m hooked on distance paddling and I’m the last guy to do anything endurance related.  In fact, last year I refused to do the July 4th race when my buddys were asking.  Now I’m the guy asking them.

We’ve had some great wind for the last couple weeks here on Oahu.  I’ve had some of the best downwind sessions I’ve ever had.  If you’re thinking about getting into the downwind aspect of SUP, do your homework and jump on in.  You’ll have a blast!

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2 Responses to “Downwinders, Weight Loss and HIIT”


  1. Noah 1Noah

    Hi Evan, Do you think it’s possible to do a short 3 to 4 mile downwinder on a 10′6″x33″wide psh hull paddler?

  2. Evan Leong 2evan

    Noah – you can do downwinders on just about any board. It just may not be that fun on a smaller board. If what you are doing is a little paddle down the coast and then catching waves at different breaks then the smaller board may be ideal. If you’re racing, then a bigger board designed for racing is probably more ideal. If you’re trying to catch and connect bumps then you’re better off with a race board.

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