They may look alike from a distance and share the same habitat, but how does a Bellyak compare to a kayak? Well friends, settle in because we’re about to tell you.
It’s true that one of the most popular off season workouts involves watching YouTube and drinking beer. While this is one of the top training methods for marginal athletic performance, this approach results in startling feelings of being out of shape after a long cold winter. We suggest another route: intentional training for the activity at hand.
So you’ve heard about bellyaking and want to give it a go? You can rent one for a day! North, South, East or West – there is a location for you. Even if you’re across the pond with our Fish and Chip loving friends. Perfect for trying out new rivers, treating family and friends visiting, or just trying it out before you walk away with your very own Frequency bellyak. You can find a full list of Bellyak Rental Locations HERE, and below are a couple of our new friends. Happy prone paddling!
Lake Junaluska Rec Hut
Where the mountains meet the lake. If you’re in Western North Carolina, you literally can’t leave without paying a visit to Lake Junaluska. Not only are there amazing views, but a beautiful lake to hone your bellyaking skills on. For more info:
91 N Lakeshore Dr, Waynesville, NC 28785(800) 222-4930
Enjoy a 5 hour beginner course on bellyaking (3 hours on the water). Are you new to moving water and want a fun, safe and exciting way to to get on the water and learn? Then Bellyak can take you there. Seasoned expert bored of the same old river? Bellyak will show you an entirely new perspective and challenge in a brand new way. Ages 6 and up! For more info:
435 E Main St, Saluda, NC 28773
For our Michigan friends, Mike’s Marine Supply is family owned and operated store offering great discounts on quality marine accessories and fun rentals on Lake St. Clair.
24910 Jefferson Ave, St Clair Shores, MI 48080+1 586-778-3200
A local fave, Saluda Outfitters is super easy to find at 435 Main in Saluda at the intersection of Ozone Drive and Highway 176. Just look UP on the hill and you will find this treasure of a store at the top.
435 Main Street, Saluda, NC 28773
For a map of our bellyak rental locations, please explore below!
By Sara Weidemann,
“My workouts are boring!” Said no one ever that owns a Bellyak. My first time on the Bellyak was an unforgettable experience. And by unforgettable, I mean my muscles felt the workout for days so I literally couldn’t forget about it. To be honest, I haven’t stopped talking about it either. So, I bought a bellyak. Since I can walk out my front door and go 10 miles in any direction and run into a lake, I bought the Frequency bellyak because it’s best for open water – and let’s be honest – it has a built in hatch to hold a couple cans of my favorite beer.
A New Kind of Workout
I’ve been a personal trainer for over 10 years and I was amazed by the number of muscle groups involved when using the bellyak. While paddling down the French Broad Section Nine River in North Carolina (first time ever on a bellyak!), I told myself how thankful I was that I incorporate Pilates into my fitness routines. I found myself engaging certain muscle groups that I would in prone Pilates exercises on the bellyak. The only difference was that the next morning I felt as if it was the first time ever doing Pilates. Hell, I felt like it was the first time I’ve ever worked out! My muscles ached, specifically my core muscles. It brought a smile to my face and I thought to myself…”I have to be a part of Team Bellyak, and I need to do so immediately because the world needs to know about the bellyak”.
Mixing Up Exercise Routines
I get bored easily with workouts and even the classes I teach, which is why I’m certified and able to teach so many different fitness formats; Yoga, Mat Pilates, PiYo, Barbell, Kettlebells, TRX, Water Aerobics, HIIT are some, but not all the formats I teach on a weekly basis. The bellyak gave me new hope that there IS something out there for me that will keep my workouts fun, fresh, and different. My goal going forward is to show you all, the Bellyak users, different fitness routines you can incorporate into your life to not only help with being better at the Bellyak and possibly surpass the man himself – founder Adam Masters – but to increase your overall strength, help with posture, decrease risk of injury and to spice up your workouts!
I look forward to putting on fitness challenges, creating workout videos, and writing blogs. If there is anything specific you’d like me to write about please e-mail me at email@example.com!
Psst – have you completed my first fitness challenge? The bellyak burpee? Check it out below!
Do you have abs of steel and a thirst for winning? Then we have the challenge for you! The Bellyak Burpee Challenge! A play on the regular burpee found regularly in CrossFit and fitness workouts, this version uses all the same technique but is styled out on your bellyak! Take a gander:
Think you can beat Jaime’s 19? We want to see! Submit your videos by sharing them with us on Facebook! Just tag @bellyak and use #bellyakburpee! Winner’s will receive this limited-edition hat!
Other than being super fun, the bellyak burpee also helps improve:
- Core Strength
- Explosive Power
Have fun and good luck!
As a kayaker, swimming is to be avoided at all costs. If you swim, it means you came out of your boat because you didn’t roll. Your friends then have to round up all your gear, help you get to shore, drain your boat, and get started again. Plus, there’s the odd custom of having to drink a beer out of your shoe to pay penance to the river gods. It’s exhausting! After swimming in whitewater a few times, most kayakers hit the pool. Not to swim laps, but to perfect their roll.
Why would you Swim on a Bellyak
If you’ve already read this far, you know the bellyak combines the best elements of swimming and boating into one awesome 8′ long piece of lifestyle enhancing polyethylene. Say that 10 times fast. Not only does the bellyak help swimmers to develop a better ‘catch‘ as it forces you to keep your elbows high, it also allows you to swim in places you may not have thought about before. Think shallow rivers, brackish water, poop-filled lagoons, dirty swimming pools, and algae filled lakes.
Other reasons bellyaks are a great tool for swimmers:
- They build specific strength
- Improve stroke technique
- Develop Core Power
- Give your brain a break from swimming laps
- Give your eyes a break from staring at the bottom of the pool
- Help give the lower body a break in case of injury/fatigue
A Swimming Escort’s Dream
No, not having The Rock as your Baywatch style lifeguard. The bellyak is also the perfect craft for a swimming escorts during open water swims and training.
Open water swimming has exploded in popularity over the last few years, with events popping up nationwide. What is open water swimming? Open water swimming takes place in outdoor bodies of water such as open oceans, lakes and rivers. Most open water swimmers employ some form of escort boat to provide water, snacks and safety. Typically, these are kayaks or paddleboards.
Bellyaks and Open Water Swimming
Bellyaks are a great alternative to kayaks and paddleboards for one HUGE reason. No paddles. Adam Masters – founder of bellyak – has a healthy fear of paddles. He’s typically one of a few prone river paddlers in a sea of kayaks, all with their paddles at face level. So he knows what it’s like to be in the water with the potential of a paddle to the face at any moment. Open water swimmers get this too! A bellyak, on the other hand, is powered with webbed gloves worn on hands. So – at a push – the most you’ll get is a gentle caress to the face.
They also make a great surface area for storing water bottles, energy gels and extra equipment. Plus lots of room for tired swimmers to perch while getting their breath back.
So, if you’re looking for fun, new alternative to cross training for swimming, or if you’re an open water swimming escort, the bellyak may just be the tool for you. If nothing else, it will make a good summer floaty for your off days.
Name: Natalie DeRatt
Bellyak Experience: 0
First Track: National Whitewater Center
Bellyak Used: Play 35
In my short life, 18 years has been dedicated to a sport. 12 of those years have been dedicated to competitive sports, and 3 of those years have been spent bobsledding professionally, for both Team USA and Great Britain. Up until recently, it was bobsledding that has given me the biggest thrill – hurtling down mile-long ice tracks at speeds averaging 75 mph with no way out. That’s until I tried bellyaking at the National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, NC.
My bellyak background
Based in Asheville, NC, I’ve seen bellyaking before – floating down the river, pictures of them in the surf, and spending lazy days on the beautiful waters of Lake Jocassee. However, nothing could prepare me for the experience of bellyaking in whitewater. The premise is simple: You hop on, you lay on your belly, you use your arms to direct you. But, what isn’t obvious is your connection with the water. Every little move – a slight lean to the right, a little turn to the left – all affect your ride, and so within minutes of trying one for the first time I felt like I was connected to the water (as frilly as that sounds). Within an hour, I was going down Class III rapids, and loving it.
My bellyak fears
I’m not going to lie, I’m not the strongest swimmer. My biggest worry was getting knocked off my bellyak in a rapid, sinking to the bottom, and never being heard from again. I came to find out this was way too dramatic of me. It’s actually super easy to just hop back on if you are sent swimming because there are no spray skirts involved and you’re on the boat and not in it. Plus, the bellyak is so buoyant, it took quite the splash to send this lack-of-experience ‘yaker into the water. Imagine if you actually knew what you were doing?!
I Became Michael Phelps
Although I was the most exhausted human in North Carolina after spending the afternoon bellyaking, it was the biggest thrill I’d had in a long time. While in driving school for bobsled, they let us try skeleton for a couple of runs – the bellyak of the ice. You simply lay on the sled, hold on tight, and ride the ride to the icy bottom. Having now done both, I can tell you bellyaking was SO much more fun. A sort of swimming/ kayaking hybrid, you feel you are literally flying through the water. Or swimming really, really fast. Like faster than Michael Phelps fast. Probably faster than Aquaman too. And it was so intuitive! You treat the boat as if it was an extension of your body.
Don’t Judge a Bellyak by its Bellyak
What did I learn from this experience? I learned you should never judge an outdoor activity by its cover. I learned that even if you’re not the best swimmer in the world, bellyaking is perfect for you (p.s. Always wear a life jacket). And I learned that exhilaration and adrenaline are available outside of winter sports and roller coasters, and they’re much, much closer than you think! As for me, I’m already plotting my next bellyak adventure.
Bellyaking may be a new sport, but you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to train for it. It’s accessible to everyone – from 8 to 80 – but as with any paddle/water sport, there are a few things you can do in training that will better prepare yourself for time on the water. Read on for answers to commonly asked questions, and tips and tricks to help take your bellyak skills to the next level.
Q1: Doesn’t that hurt your back?
Only if you want it to. Back pain from sports is more commonly related to sitting and standing incorrectly as well as poor posture and core strength, not the sport itself. According to Eric Goodman of Foundation Training, many of us have adopted a movement program that doesn’t allow us to use the strongest muscles in our body properly. Ready to change that? Grab your bellyak and let’s go!
First, it’s important to note the bellyak has an ergonomic design which supports the prone position while paddling. This eases tension in the lower spine. It also allows the paddler more contact with the water so you can dig deeper and paddle stronger. If you are ready to beef up your game and become a more aggressive paddler, full-functioning muscle groups combined with flexibility are a must. I guess this is the part in the article where I am supposed to say if you have any pre-existing back conditions, consult your doctor and don’t take my word for it.
Q2: Where do I start?
Keep it simple. Your pelvis and lower spine are the most mobile areas of your body and so need the most stability and flexibility training to increase muscle control. Working on these areas will allow you to go from version 1 athlete, to a higher functioning version 2 athlete. You’ll be like a baby discovering it’s neck muscle! Proud moments!
How to begin functional training
Let’s break down a couple of basic moves. My favorite is the classic yoga pose Sanskrit calls Salabhasana. Say it with me: SAL-AB-HASANA. If you are unable to pronounce the word you can also call it by its street name – Locust Post. Let’s try it!
Start with just the upper body. The majority of us can put ourselves into this position no problem, but remember we are retraining muscle groups to be full-functioning, so before you pop up as high as you can possibly go consider strength first. When we activate the muscles in our lower spine it adds stability versus just recklessly stretching and bending muscles, tendons and ligaments.
While lying face down, place an object you dare not lose in between your thighs (see below). To hold the object in place you will need to squeeze your inner thighs together, which in turn activates the muscles and ligaments around your lower spine. From there, gently raise yourself a few inches off the ground, pressing the tops of your feet into the ground and lengthening your spine. Take 5 or so deep breathes, rest, and repeat 4-5 times. Wrap it up with a counter pose like child’s pose. Once you feel under control with this move you can add legs. I recommend giving it a few days before you add legs. Remember to keep it simple so you can retrain your body to function more effectively.
That’s enough yoga for today!
The next step of functional training
Now let’s add in some core strength! We are a big fans of Foundation Training, developed to facilitate the body’s natural healing ability and quickly improve degenerative movement patterns. The next exercise – The Founder – could be a game changer for everyone, whether you bellyak or not! Here’s a quick tutorial to get you going:
***No banjos were harmed in the making of this blog post and author, Jamie MacLeod, makes no promise to the results you may see.***
The bellyak roll is a fundamental skill for paddling whitewater. The main function of the bellyak roll is so that you are able to maintain connection with the boat and stay on line. This leads to a happier time on the water, gives a stronger sense of control which leads to confidence, which thus equals more fun. And he who has the most fun wins. We read that in a book. To help you along, here’s all you need to know to flip and dip your bellyak.
What Happens if I Flip Over?
Swims happen. Sometimes you lean left when the river wants you to lean right, and you find yourself in the water. The good news is that the bellyak is very easy to remount/self rescue. But let’s face it. It’s way cooler to roll. If you’re off your boat swimming, then you aren’t in control, and you aren’t having as much fun as you could have. The good news is you don’t have to spend $900 on clinics and hours of lake practice…the bellyak roll can be mastered by most people in a short amount of time, often in the first few hours of paddling.
As you feel yourself about to roll over, your instinct may be to grab the handles. Not so! Bear hug the boat like you would hug your favorite hound dog, wrapping your arms all the way around. The key is to create a solid connection via your arms and your chest to the bellyak.
It’s Mainly in the Legs
Once upside down you will be hugging the bellyak close and telling it secrets. Your legs will be in the water, because of gravity. Perform a quick scissor kick to maintain your momentum and get the boat fun side up. Imagine wrestling an alligator and trying to flip it over on it’s back. That’s what you want to do.
Back Upright: Almost There
Once your boat is back upright, you will be oriented as in the picture below. At this point you will want to swing your legs back on top and get back in position.
The bellyak roll from the back
Not Maintaining Momentum
The roll is something that happens as soon as you feel yourself flipping over. The key is to GO WITH the roll, and use that momentum to bring you all the way around. If you don’t maintain momentum you will lose connection with the boat and have to remount from the water. This works, but isn’t as quick. Or as fun. Like we mentioned.
Not Bearhugging Tight Enough
If you give your bellyak a half-hearted hug, it will leave you. Hug it like you mean it.
No Sense of Urgency
We see this all the time…people just flop off and don’t even try to get back on. Have some urgency. The safest place on the river – and also most fun – is on top of your bellyak, paddling in control. TIP: Imagine the water is filled with starving pyranhas and you have to get back upright, or else some fish is going to be wearing your skin. You don’t want that do you?