by Rebecca Omastiak
SUP: solely a slang greeting no longer. Short for stand up paddleboarding, the increasingly popular water activity attracts individuals interested in everything from a full body workout to a relaxing tour of surrounding scenery. With summer heat sweeping everyone toward our lakes and rivers, stand up paddleboarding perfectly accommodates our outdoor Minnesotan lifestyle with tours along the Mississippi, stops at local eateries near the water, and excursions throughout the state.
We caught up with Austin Aho, entrepreneur and founder of local paddle board company Stand Up MN and its new daughter company that offers yoga on paddleboards called Streaming Studios.
What inspired you to start your own stand up paddleboard company?
I had taught ethical economics at Beijing Union University and worked at investment banks and in London and Singapore. After four years, I came back to Minnesota and I really wanted to get involved in things that I was passionate about that I had never really looked into. So, I looked around for outdoor education programs. Wilderness Inquiry came up, so I volunteered with them one summer and also worked at a food business incubator in north Minneapolis called Kindred Kitchen.
Tell me about Kindred Kitchen.
Kindred Kitchen empowers people with the resources they need to start their own food business. By helping all these entrepreneurs, I was able to get a sense of what it takes to become an entrepreneur; I saw their passion and it inspired me to combine something I love, which is outdoor education and experience, with local food.
Then that naturally led you to explore outdoor water activities. Were you interested in water activities before stand up paddleboarding?
I’ve always been passionate about the water. I’ve gone on a lot of Boundary Waters trips, like most Minnesotans, and I spent a lot of time on the lakes growing up. I had never been paddleboarding, actually. A friend went to Austin, Texas where there was a growing paddleboard movement. So they told me about it, I tried it once, and it just clicked. I knew I wanted to start Stand Up MN.
You offer tours down the Mississippi River?
Yes, we have three routes: Minneapolis, Fort Snelling, and St. Paul. We are also going to Taylor’s Falls in August as well as Coon Rapids and Hastings; we’re doing one weekend at each.
And you combine other elements with your stand up paddleboard tours, such as a Nice Ride bike pass?
Yes! We have something called the Paddle Pub option: For $10, you get a drink, an appetizer, and a day pass for Nice Ride MN. It’s a lot of fun.
You recently developed a new paddleboard yoga organization called Streaming Studios. What is that yoga experience like?
Well, it’s very different from any other yoga experience I’ve seen. We have a shallow spot on the Minnehaha Creek that is about four inches deep and the boards are suspended with a line over the water. We have yogis teach different yoga classes, so we have Vinyasa, your standard practice that is modified because you’re on a paddleboard, and we also have meditation and a Pilates/Sculpt class.
Are there different classes for varying levels of experience?
We try to make each class available to all experience levels. But they are suited for different types. If you want a workout, if you want to meditate, or if you want to have a relaxing, stretching practice, we have all of those options available.
What do you enjoy most about paddleboard yoga that is unique to the experience?
I love being outdoors; in the summertime, it’s beautiful outside. I love being outdoors in the morning, in the water, underneath the trees with the birds. It’s very peaceful, it’s very engaging, it’s full of different senses.
That’s an inspiring way to describe it! What are some of your goals and upcoming projects for Stand Up MN and Streaming Studios?
With Stand Up MN, we’re really just trying to get people out on the Mississippi River. I think it’s an under-utilized resource; most people don’t know we have a national park. It’s called the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area and it’s right here in the cities. We also created a non-profit called Paddle Taxi. It’s a free shuttle service on the Mississippi River for those who kayak and canoe.
With Streaming Studios, a goal is to help people become more focused, more relaxed or helping people develop a new meditation or a new yoga practice. Also, enjoying the outdoors in a new way. I think getting people outdoors trying something new is a great way to experience the best Minnesota has to offer.
To learn more about Stand Up MN and Streaming Studios, visit the website.
(All images courtesy of Austin Aho.)