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Paddleboard Pilates

Paddleboarding meets Pilates on Lake Michigan and Montrose Beach
Photograph: Allison Williams Chicago 7/16/11Instructor Jenna Zaffino, left, leads a paddleboard pilates class at Montrose Avenue Beach in Chicago.
By Jessica Herman |

The class Paddleboard Pilates at Montrose Beach with Helios Center for Movement

The details Instructor Jenna Zaffino laughs that her just-launched fitness class imbues participants with a kind of “Jesus complex.” It’s true—the hour-long class is possibly the closest any of us will come to walking on water. If paddleboarding—a cross between kayaking and surfing—weren’t confusing enough, Paddleboarding Pilates takes the sport to the next level. But in Zaffino’s mind, it’s a no-brainer: Both Pilates and paddleboarding focus on core strength and body-toning balance work. The class starts with basic paddling instructions on land. Once we all get the hang of how to maneuver the long board with a single oar, we drag our boards into the lake and practice gliding around while sitting on our knees; minutes later, with a little urging and guidance, we stand up on the board. As soon as I start feeling somewhat comfortable paddling, Zaffino directs us to gather round and do two sets of 15 squats, followed by lunges. My focus on form and breathing techniques falls to the wayside as I contemplate how I’ll ever rebalance myself on the board should I take a spill. I don’t have to wait to find out: One of my five classmates wipes out, followed by another, and I quickly realize there’s no way I can actually hurt myself. During the next 45 minutes we alternate between paddling (trying different techniques to work our arms and legs) and Pilates exercises, including downward dog, plank and core work. I’m cautious with my movement and maintain my balance for the duration of class. By the time we paddle back to shore, I’m less exhausted from the actual workout than I am tired from nervously tensing my legs to remain upright. I look up and thank Mother Nature for this wave-free day.

When to take it Saturdays at 8am and 9am; $65 per class, $300 for six-week program. Sign up at or, or call 773-248-0920.

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