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Paddleboarding with my Apple Watch is the best thing I’ve done all summer

Apple Watch paddleboarding
(Image credit: Future)

While my Apple Watch follows me almost everywhere, sometimes the smartwatch leads me to my next adventure. Not long ago I found myself scrolling through a seemingly-infinite list of activities the Apple Watch can track, when I realized I could try out a new one rather conveniently.

Despite my home’s proximity to open water, I had never been standup paddleboarding (SUP) before. My water “sport” of choice is usually wading or sometimes canoeing, as long as someone else is holding the oars. 

But open to trying anything once, I found an affordable beginner SUP lesson at Adventure Paddleboards on Long Island’s east end. I dragged my dad with me to the bay on a perfect summer afternoon to test the waters — and my balance. 

Before we crawled onto our rented boards, the instructor, Cheryl, showed us proper form and shared some basic SUP tips. She also warned us that while paddleboarding might look lackadaisical, we’d be in for a killer core workout. “Relax-ercising,” I think she called it.

I knew I’d be able to see just how much relax-ercise I’d get thanks to the Paddling workout option for Apple Watch. Though my Apple Watch 6 can’t automatically detect Paddling like it can a walk, run or swim, it took only a few taps to add the workout type to my list. 

Is paddleboarding a good workout?

Just after I secured the board to my ankle with a Velcro strap, I launched the Paddling workout. Then, even though my Apple Watch can submerge up to 50 meters (about 164 feet) without issue, I enabled Water Lock to prevent accidental screen taps caused by water pressure. 

I might’ve jinxed myself, though. I fell in the water on the first attempt to stand up from my knees. Once I recovered, laughed it off and slapped my saltwater-soaked baseball cap back on my head, I began paddleboarding back and forth in a calm inlet. Eventually, I found my stride — err, stroke. 

The activity tracking technology in the Apple Watch — and in many of the best smartwatches and best fitness trackers — knows the movements associated with specific sports. So my smartwatch recognized the rigor of my paddling, along with my changing heart rate, to determine my exercise minutes and calories burned.

And let me tell you, SUP is a serious workout. In my 70 minutes at sea, my heart rate averaged 120 beats per minute and I earned 437 active calories toward my activity rings. I doubt the total is entirely accurate, but my post-paddling exhaustion suggested the SUP excursion sufficed as my exercise for the day.

Apple Watch paddleboarding

(Image credit: Future)

How Apple Watch can elevate your SUP experience

Now, if I were to paddleboard more regularly in less controlled environments, I might download one of the best Apple Watch apps for water sports like Paddle Logger. Not only does Paddle Logger track your workout metrics, but it provides safety features for letting an emergency contact back on land know your whereabouts. The Pro version ($6.99 per month) also offers a Virtual Race feature and tools for mapping all your SUP adventures.

That’s not to say I won’t paddleboard again. In fact, I hope to go at least once more this summer, and that time I’ll bring along one of the best waterproof speakers and download music for offline playback to my Apple Watch. 

But this little experiment has inspired me to try out more of the activities Apple Watch can track, from archery and fitness gaming to fencing and squash. Maybe I’ll even try equestrian sports, if I can conquer my fear of horses. Call it a workout bucket list, if you will. 

So what’s next? I think Tai Chi is an obvious choice, now that’s coming with watchOS 8 on the Apple Watch 7. And maybe the balance lessons I learned while paddleboarding will pay off on land. 

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is a senior writer at Tom’s Guide covering wearables, TVs and everything smart-home related. When she’s not in cyborg mode, you can find her on an exercise bike or channeling her inner celebrity chef. She and her robot army will rule the world one day, but until then, reach her at kate.kozuch@futurenet.com.