Kira Stokes & Stoked Surf 360: Rising to the Challenge

On Saturday, I finally got the chance to try Kira Stokes‘ take on a SurfSet Fitness class called Stoked Surf 360.  Going into the class, I just KNEW it was going to be a good one, although, I was a little worried that there wasn’t a class scheduled afterwards because Kira really loves a little overtime push! I have gotten the chance to try a few of her classes in the Stoked 360 series (both the regular version and the small group version and I LOVED both) and assumed that this class would be in a similar vein. It was so much more than that, though.  It wasn’t just a retread of those great classes, but really took into account the uniqueness of the surfboard apparatus. It is always such a treat to get to train with someone like Kira, who is so inspiring and passionate about what she does and loves to challenge those she trains – and herself! The SurfSet Ripsurfer X (a surfboard balanced on top of three small exercise balls with handles attached to resistance bands for use in paddling) is such a fun, unique tool, that it was fun to see someone really push it to the limits of what it could be used for. She obviously LOVED getting to play with using a new tool and how to get an intense workout while using the board to its full advantage. Kira demonstrated the form of every single move, breaking it down so you knew where you were supposed to be throughout the whole movement. From the simplest of moves to the most complex, Kira is all about form. I know that by the end of any class with Kira, I will have been pushed, challenged, thoroughly worked out but I won’t ever leave hurt because she is watching every move too closely for that.

It was definitely a Stoked class, with every circuit done 3 times like in her other classes -once to learn it, once to master the moves, once to fatigue – but each was tailored to include one strength, one surf and one core move for each round. Kira was, of course, a complete stickler for form – even if you are on a wobbly surface she has a knack for really watching everyone’s form on every single move. In her normal classes, when she is demonstrating the next circuit, you jump rope or do jumping jacks – in this class, it was all about paddling. Each circuit, though, also contained a move that made me go “whaaaaaaaaat?” as she was doing the demo. In the first set, it was a burpee move that included a jump at the end, which in the first set, was completely out of the question, but by the third, I was actually managing at least a small hop at the end. In one set, it was a brutal combo move that went from a squat to a one leg deadlift, then to an upright row on one foot…all while holding the handles. In another, there was a frog move (which I sort of loved even though it was in a tricep set that made me want to cry) where you popped off the board with your feet on either side into sort of a modified dolphin push up with way more movement, then back up onto the board, straightening out your arms.  Kira made it look effortless but it was SO hard! By the time we got to the final standing section, I was dripping with sweat and shaky, but also loving EVERY single minute of that class. It was hard, but all the sections flowed into one another in a way that made perfect sense and built into a solid base for the final standing series that was the pop-up section. It was awesome and I was flying high from it, because all the prep for getting there made the pop-ups seem really natural – which has never been the case for me!  The very last section was the core section and was super hard, of course. Have you seen Kira’s abs?? None of my moves were nearly as graceful as the ones she demonstrated but really that isn’t a shock – she is RIPPED and her core strength is no joke!  Mine, not so much.  Must add that to the list of things to work on…

The entire class was on the board – all 85 minutes of it. It was so awesome to see someone really embrace the opportunity to really change up their core classes and create a class that was so focused on really being on the board and using it to its full advantage. Kira’s class was awesome, inspired and just really fun. I wasn’t surprised but Kira loves what she does so much that it really was a treat to get to watch her play with something new – and still be just as amazing as always.


(Photos taken by Eric Stafford for FBS)

Holly Rilinger & The Joy Factor

On Saturday morning, bright and early, I made my way to Flywheel for one of my absolute favorite ways to kick off a Saturday right: Holly Rilinger’s ridiculously popular 10:45am class. The class sells out every week, for good reason of course.  It is ridiculously inspiring, joyful and just plain fun. It is her only 60 minute class every week and the energy of the room is always intense and positive, people really open up and just soak up the joy that Holly always brings to what she teaches. In most Flywheel classes, I try to be in the front two rows because, although all the seats are good due to the stadium seating in their studios, I get progressively worse the further I sit back in the room. For Holly’s Saturday class, though, those first couple of rows are almost impossible to snag and since I was determined to take BOTH her Flywheel class AND her SurfSet class that day, I had to take what I could get and was relegated to the back row. I HATE the back row and Saturday, I was convinced my bike hated me too. Holly, of course, was amazing and you could feel her joy and energy even from that back row bike.  Still, I had a terrible time getting my legs to actually fly that morning.

When the lineup for Rate Your Burn/SurfSet’s April pop-up in Chelsea Market was announced, I knew right away that I would have to take a few of their classes, since the list included so many of the instructors that I love in town. Narrowing it down to just 3 was hard but I knew immediately that Holly Rilinger’s class would be one of them, that was just a given.  I mean, really, I would try ANY class Holly taught, but given that she loves to surf, it seemed like a perfect fit for her. I don’t surf (I plan to remedy that this summer though!) and couldn’t tell you if being on the SurfSet board is anything like being on a real board, but I do think that knowing how to surf makes the transition to teaching a SurfSet class seem really natural.

Originally, the plan was that a group of us were going to go over with Holly after class but that didn’t quite pan out. So, that morning after class, I made my way over to Chelsea Market with Holly and the fitness model from her recent Fitness magazine shoot.  Check out Holly’s plan in the May issue of Fitness Magazine here (you can watch the video on their site too, and even though you have to register to watch the video, it is so worth it to check out the moves in action). If you ever want to test your self-esteem, try walking with those two stunning, ridiculously fit women!  Thank God they both have a goofy, joyful, fun streak or I would have wanted to crawl under a rock.  We grabbed some iced coffee at the market (since, really, it was such a beautiful day) before making our way to the make-shift studio, deep in the heart of the market. It was my first class in the Chelsea Market, even though I had gone to the kickoff party and was really excited to see what they had done with the space. The cool thing about the space is that it is really light and airy and fits almost double the amount of boards than at the studio at Chelsea Piers, where I had taken class before. The space doesn’t have changing rooms though, which I had guessed, so I had come fully workout ready (and admittedly a little sweaty from Flywheel).  There is a bathroom in the studio, so you wouldn’t be totally in trouble if you didn’t come prepared! The laid-back vibe is in this space too, thanks in part to SurfSet’s cool old surf film projections. They really did a great job of maxing out the fun, chill vibe that really is intrinsic to a surf-based class! Holly played some great music and made the class a fun challenge with lots and lots of paddling and so many brutal squats in all sorts of variations, pushups, planks and popups. Holly, of course, brought her passion and joy to the board, just like she does on the bike – and at one point, we jumped off the board and danced a little too, because there has to be dancing in a Holly class! The class FLEW by and by the end, I was sore, giggling and just joyful. It doesn’t get better than that.  I walked out into the beautiful, sunny day, with a smile I couldn’t shake and enjoyed wandering through the glorious city with the fella, who had come to meet me. It was an absolutely perfect day and reminded me how really good life can be…

(The “Joy Factor” is Holly’s new slogan and it is just so fitting, photos from Saturday’s SurfSet class by the fella, bottom image just a little internet goodness…)