High school P.E. no longer needs to be stale, sweaty locker rooms or endless reps of burpees and situps. If you are lucky enough to go to Dana Hills High School, you can now get P.E. credits by standup paddling. Last week DHHS in Dana Point, Calif. started one of the first standup paddling physical education classes in the world (classes have also launched in the UK and at a private school in Hawaii).

Rick Stinson, a tennis coach and DHHS graduate, has been paddling for six years. The idea for a standup P.E class started a few years ago.

“We’ve been talking about this for a while,” Stinson says. “It took a lot of hard work and people believing in it to make this happen. It helped that some of the (school) board members have paddled.”

And it probably doesn’t hurt that DHHS is a few miles from Dana Point Harbor, a hotbed of SUP training and home to the biggest race in standup, the Battle of Paddle. Stinson holds classes at Baby Beach there and hopes to capitalize on the local talent, bringing in guests such as Candice Appleby and Rob Rojas for guest teaching slots. Local board company Riviera Paddlesurf donated 10 boards and paddles to the cause and the Dana Outrigger Canoe Club offered up storage space in one of their sheds.

“We always like to put back into the community, not just take,” says Mike Muir, president of Riviera. “I think always being around the water is a good thing. These kids are going to get hooked.”

Stinson is a SUP racer and a surfer himself and wanted to bring his love of the sport to his students.

“I grew up surfing and that’s a sport you can do forever. [Standup] is a a life-long sport too,” Stinson says. “I wanted to give that to these students.”

He’ll do just that, twice a week in hour-and-a-half block periods, introducing students to training regimes, board styles and the different disciplines of the the sport. 24 paddlers showed up for the first class, ranging in experience from seasoned racers to first-time paddlers. An afternoon sea breeze made conditions tough for the first on-water class but the students were ready and willing to have at it.

“Conditions were a little breezy,” Mike Skelly, a Hobie lifestyle athlete who was helping out with the class, says. “But they all took it in stride. Everyone got on the board and paddled despite the conditions.”

Some of the more advanced students helped beginners or cruised farther afield. Skelly and Stinson raced around the harbor and checked on the groups as they figured things out. It was hard not to be jealous of the students and teachers alike, sliding over the cool green water. You couldn’t ask for a better classroom.

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