Hale March 18 Masthead

Fitness Roadtest: The SUP’ing Caveman

Ashleigh Went

  About this time last year, one of my girlfriends and I headed up to Manly for some stand up paddle boarding (SUP’ing) lessons.

It was so much fun and I remember saying “I wish we could do this in Canberra!” If only I had known about our very own SUP’ing Caveman, Canberra’s only internationally accredited Stand Up Paddle school.

I was introduced to Matthew, the Caveman himself, through a friend I’ve recently made at my new work that is your typical ‘cool girl’ – amazing clothes, great hair, wicked sense of humour and confidence to boot. I was not surprised to find out that she spends her weekends SUP’ing on Lake Burley Griffin. I was, however, extremely keen to tag along so when she invited me along to SUP’ercise bootcamp, I jumped at the opportunity.

I was fascinated to see how the session would unfold.

To me, stand up paddling and bootcamp are two vastly different activities performed on vastly different surfaces.

Upon arriving at Molonglo Reach and meeting Matt and the other participants, I spotted a chalkboard that answered my question. It was divided into two sections – ‘land’ and ‘on board’. Our land exercises were burpees, lunges and elbows to knees, and we were to complete push ups, squats and glute bridges on our boards.

I had emailed Matt in advance to organise renting a board (an extra $20 a session) and I was pleased to see that it was a nice big, solid looking inflatable, complete with paddle. Matt divided the group into two – newcomers and the more experienced boarders, and pointed us in the direction of two separate markers – one in the distance, and one substantially closer to the shore for the newbies. We completed the first round of land exercises, hopped on the boards and paddled out to our markers.


I climbed onto my board, shaky but determined, and made it to the marker. I lowered myself down to push ups, stood back up, holding my paddle in front of me to squat, and back down to do some glute bridges. Success – I didn’t fall in! Not only that, I wasn’t miles behind everyone else. This is the advantage of having a ‘handicap’ for the more advanced boarders: everyone finishes each round at a similar time so you’re not left feeling like a slow poke.

By the time we finished up our fifth and final round, I was breathless and shaky but with a huge grin on my face. It’s so much fun and you’re so focused on maintaining your balance that you barely notice how hard you’re working out (not to mention you don’t know if you’re sweaty or just wet).

We finished up the session with some pointers from Matt on how to properly perform a turn and then had a chat with the other group members. Even though there’s a big range in terms of ability, everyone was really friendly, welcome and encouraging.

I was certain that I’d fall in but I’m proud to say that I didn’t – not once! It’s best to wear clothes that you’re happy to get wet in though, as there is a chance you may end up falling and you do get quite wet coming off and climbing back on your board.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that SUP Bootcamp was the most fun I’ve had working out in ages. A few people have asked me “is it really a workout though?” and the answer is a resounding YES! Not only is SUP’ing a challenge in that you are engaging your abs and balancing, but performing the bootcamp exercises while stabilising yourself makes for a very solid workout indeed. I was sore the next day in my chest, abs and legs – but also in those little stabilising muscles that you don’t often find yourself using.

Another great aspect of the session is that Matt truly is a great instructor. As a fully qualified Personal Trainer with 16 years of military experience, he’s certainly equipped to run bootcamps, however it’s obvious that SUP’ing is his passion.

“I switched to paleo and started stand up paddle boarding at the same time, and a friend of mine and I were in Newcastle SUP’ing and he said, “you’re just the SUP’ing caveman, aren’t you?”

The name stuck, and Matt launched the SUP’ing Caveman business, offering lessons. He initially started combining his love of fitness with SUP’ing in his own training.


“I love training outdoors but I wanted something a bit different, so I ended up buying a board. The first time I started doing a circuit I paddled out to a marker, did some push ups and sit ups and dips and then I paddled 500 metres and back and did it again. That was the start of it.”

“Now we’ve got the bootcamp, the group lessons, private lessons and SUP polo as well which is really taking off!”

Heading along to lessons or a bootcamp session is a fantastic way to socialise and meet new people, as there is a real sense of community among the group.

“We’ve got sports professionals, retirees, military members, public servants, teachers, all those different lifestyles and we catch up every now and then, we go to the coast as a group to go surfing, we go and get coffees together.”

“We’ve got a good working relationship with Misty from Paleo Perfection and on Sundays we got to 38 Espresso. We did a race series here last year on the foreshore on the inflatable boards – there’s another one coming up – so Misty and Nick [of 38 Espresso] entered that and had races between each other, it was hilarious, really good fun.”

If you’re keen to be a part of the SUP’ing Caveman community or just try stand up paddle boarding, I would really recommend you get yourself along to a SUP Bootcamp session or some lessons. It’s good fun, a great workout and yet another way to enjoy our beautiful city.

the essentials

What: The SUP’ing Caveman – SUP’ercise classes
When: Contact for bookings
Where: Classes are run from Molonglo Reach
How much: Individual classes are $10 per session plus $20 for board hire, with 4, 8, and 12 session packs available.
Web: thesupingcaveman.com


Ashleigh Went

Ashleigh Went has a passion for all things health and wellness. She’s currently furthering her studies in nutrition, but also has a Bachelor of Communication and is a qualified fitness instructor with over five years experience working in a gym. Among other things, she’s a lover of great food, coffee and fashion. She can usually be found shopping for activewear, in the gym or updating her Instagram @wentworthavenue More about the Author