“Water safety is not rocket science”, claims Maria Cerboni, a Swedish SUP & Yoga Instructor and Founder of Aqua Yoga Sweden and Board Yoga Sweden, who has seen far too many unnecessary situations where it weren’t only the beginners who neglected the safety aspect. Involved in watersports since a young age, Maria’s experience has been shaped both by the toughest Nordic conditions and dreamy swells of the Caribbean. TotalSUP caught up with Maria to chat about her holistic approach to on-water training, safety and her gear of choice – Baltic Lifejackets Sweden – to navigate those rough Nordic conditions.
You’re a Yoga and SUP Instructor, Waterwoman, Entrepreneur and a Tour Guide. How did you get into stand-up paddleboarding?
I grew up by the sea and have always found peace, strength and joy in life when my body comes in contact with the element of water. I tried paddleboarding in 2004 when I backpacked around the world on my own and I immediately felt that this really is something! I could not let it go and started to think about how to develop SUP in our Nordic part of the world. A few years later I had started a concept where I brought people out in the nature in a new way. It’s hard to beat a paddleboard as a vehicle to discover new areas, whether they’re urban or pure nature.
Then I moved to the Caribbean for a few years and got the opportunity to develop a SUP concept in the mangrove swamps combined with the crystal clear Caribbean waters. A total contrast to our Nordic climate. But also a lot of similarities regarding fast changing weather conditions and tough waters. The only difference is that one place is very warm and the other is often pretty cold… But both are equally wonderful and valuable to me. I love them both.
SUP safety has been a crucial topic recently… Could you tell us more about your approach?
It’s great to see how SUP grows but too often we also see people with little or no understanding of water safety out there… And it’s absolutely not always the beginners who neglect the safety aspect. Yes, it’s a broad subject but it’s not rocket science. Unfortunately I have seen too many unnecessary situations over the years where people end up in trouble due to lack of safety knowledge. Not to mention SUP yoga practitioners who don’t understand that they are outside their safe yoga room and paddle without a leash or buoyancy aid.
Could you tell us about your collaboration with Baltic?
I acted as a project leader for my partner and boyfriend Pontus Ny who was involved with the design of the SUP vests for Baltic. Then my engagement also ended up connecting Baltic with the group behind Skrea Paddle Race and the Swedish Championships. I also showcased Baltic for the Perfect World Foundation and now we also have some great environmental projects together. So for me Baltic is a brand that fully understands the spirit of SUP and combines that with their deep safety knowledge. It’s simply a very great team to work with.
Of course the two new SUP vests: SUP Pro and SUP Elite. Then I love the Hamble jacket, which is a floating aid jacket, but looks like a very cool regular jacket…You can wear it any time, on land or on the sea. Then our dog Rumi has the Zorro model as an absolute favourite…
Holistic approach… You combine various elements, from downwinding to float yoga, in your training programmes. Could you tell us more about it?
Nature and the sea are about health and power, and yoga is just that! I grew up surrounded by a forest, nature and animals and competed for many years in the national team in horse riding. For me, health and yoga are movements in one flow… Where you enter a dimension without thinking, but only being in one element.
Yoga has been by my side for many years. It has supported me, brought me joy and helped me through many different situations in life. For about 12 years it’s been my main profession besides SUP. To bring yoga on to a paddleboard came naturally to me the first time I stood on a SUP. The idea was not to imitate a classic land-based yoga class, actually quite the opposite. Here you are in a totally different context: a yoga room where the surface moves, different winds come to play, sounds and often other water vessels pass you by… This is the core concept at Board Yoga Sweden.You should use this context to enhance the yoga experience. Not trying to not fall off the board, or just doing static positions.
The instructors we train come from different backgrounds. And common for all is that when they really integrate the focus on being a good paddler, the yoga gets easier, funnier and gives thousands of more ways to develop their own personal style.
All my classes and trainings I hold are far beyond the pressure, the must…. but with that being said, it’s not like you do not get sweaty or tired… You do get tired, sweaty and completely exhausted, because your body has fun! To be joyful and a bit rowdy with our inner child is a key that is included in all classes.
I work with all elements around us. And within us… Water is especially present in all my classes. Whether it is on the board, in the water or on land.
What’s your local SUP scene like in Sweden? And what’s unique about your location in terms of watersports?
I have seen an incredible positive SUP development here in Sweden since it started to grow and gaining momentum. One thing that’s unique about our location is of course the harsh climate or let’s say the rapidly changing, seasonal conditions. But I see this climate as a gift. It makes you self-aware and flexible and at this time of the year we have daylight pretty much 24hours long.
I do outdoor activities all year long but then Summer is of course a very intensive time. What’s extra rewarding is that I get to meet such a broad group of paddlers. One day its mobility training for a racing SUP athlete and for the the next session I work with a person with fear of water that’s about to try SUP for the first time.
I also look after female paddlers. A few years ago I started a special SUP group for women and it’s great to see how they can connect and share experiences. All the way from beginners to race athletes and SUP surfers.
How do you think the sport of stand-up paddleboarding will evolve?
What we see now is still just the beginning of something really big… and the sport has grown a lot since I began paddleboarding. With SUP being represented in the Olympics in the near future, the development will expand even more in different directions.
I also think we will see more and more people consider their board purchases more and aim for better quality and more long-lasting products.
A few more education programs this season for SUP yoga instructors, more events for women on SUP. And then I am continuing to develop my own foil skills.
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