Western Pennsylvania may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking about premier standup paddleboarding spots. But for SurfSUP Adventures founder Ian Smith, it was a no-brainer. After exploring the area's rivers, lakes, and whitewater rafting locales, Smith established SurfSUP Adventures to introduce adventurers to the region-friendly sport. Ian and his staff lead eco tours aboard paddleboards, weaving through waterways to discover local flora, fauna, and fossilized surfboards. They also host SUP excursions on Pittsburgh's riverfront and teach SUP yoga classes to sculpt core muscles.
Steel City Rowing Club imparts sweeping and sculling competence on youth and adult rowers with classes designed to gradually build up confidence and ability. Certified coaches lead land and water training sessions that familiarize participants with the equipment and techniques used in rowing and foster a reliance on teamwork, a pivotal component in mastering mid-river games of musical chairs. Indoor rowing sessions build endurance and stability with rowing-machine practice, weight and core training, and yoga. Rowers then apply newly acquired skills amid the scenic, undeveloped wetlands of the Allegheny River, with training in multipassenger rowing shells as well as kayaks, canoes, and inflatable manatees. Each session holds a maximum of 32 students, with at least one coach per 16 rowers.
HappyFeet founder Andy Barney boasts a lengthy resumé: the Oxford, England, native was a semipro soccer player by the age of 16, studied physical education in college, and coached youth soccer for 10 years before moving to the U.S. In America, he coached at Avila University and wrote the book Training Soccer Legends, but one day he found his extensive experience challenged by an unlikely group—preschoolers. He had agreed to spend what he thought would be an easy afternoon leading tots in a soccer workshop, only to end up exhausted yet inspired to design a curriculum specifically for younger kids.
His research eventually led to HappyFeet, where instructors play with kids aged 2–6 using a proprietary lesson plan the company dubbed “story time with a soccer ball.” Each kid receives a ball, and beyond practicing basic skills such as dribbling, striking, and autograph signing in a noncompetitive setting, the incorporation of stories, nursery rhymes, and songs enables kids to exercise both physical and mental faculties. The 45-minute indoor classes, which were reviewed by the Pittsburgh Tribune, are held onsite at preschools and sports facilities such as PISA. Little ones can also be enrolled in HappyFeet’s leagues, where a 15- to 20-minute mini class precedes a 30-minute game.
The U.S. Women's Open is one of the United States Golf Association's premier majors and a chance to see the world's best female golfers display their driving, chipping, and golf-ball levitation skills, which have eliminated the need for tees. Spend one of four days analyzing the rhythmic, controlled shots from expected competitors such as Michelle Wie and the steady putting skills of Ai Miyazato—both trying to best last year's champion, Eun-Hee Ji. Up to nine golf-following youths age 17 and under will be admitted free of charge with every ticketed adult, and the first two rows of the grandstands are reserved for children to soak in the action with a first-hand view.
Dominique Ponko sits at the head of the class, leading yogis through muscle-lengthening postures with the steady flow of her deep, rhythmic inhales and exhales. It’s been a long journey for Dominique. She first sought out yoga at the age of 26 to help her cope with life-threatening seizures and a slow-growing brain tumor. Yoga comforted her through three difficult years, welcoming her into a space for healing spiritually before she was able to find the proper medicine to help her heal physically. Though still a little shaky, Dominique has triumphed and opened four yoga studios—voted Best of the ‘Burgh in 2010—to inspire her students to ease their ailments, build strength, and find inner peace.
During her studio's heated Vinyasa-flow classes, an enthusiastic and supportive instructor guides students through a series of strengthening postures that work to increase flexibility and build muscles. Warm, balmy air courses through the studio, pricking beads of sweat on brows to help detox bodies and loosen stiff muscles into deep, soothing stretches.