Paddle boarding can help with your mental well-being; Just ask these kids and their teachers

By Sally Tippett Rains

Some special kids from Rainbows for Kids were treated to a fun day in the sunshine learning to paddle board– and while they were at it, they learned about mindfulness and that they can succeed in anything they try– and whether they stood up on the paddle board or fell in the water, the were “enough.”

The life-lessons event, done in conjunction with SUP-STL is part of a unique program called “Paddle Freely by Kristen Terrill.”  Teens and tweens from Rainbows for Kids–  got to try paddle boarding and they all did great– and had the best time ever. They can’t wait until next year.

SUP-STL and Paddle Freely are quickly becoming a popular way for individuals or groups to achieve the peace that only being in the outdoors and  on the water can provide. There is still time in the season to go out and enjoy the pastime. You can either just walk to the dock and rent a paddleboard or contact them for lessons or group outings.

Stacey Drake, the owner of Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP-STL) along with Dr. Kristen Terrill, a pediatrician from South County teamed up for the special event which taught the kids how to get up on a paddle board, with the afternoon including developing good self-esteem and friendship. It gave them a sense of conquering something; a sense of pride.

SUP-STL is the company’s name. SUP stands for stand-up-paddle boarding– a sport in the water that got its roots from surfers in Hawaii.

According to, “Stand-up paddle boarding, also known for the acronym SUP, is one of the fastest-growing boardsports in the world. SUP is a subclass of paddle boarding, a broader concept that also includes the use of arms while kneeling, lying, or standing on a narrow and long paddle board to move around in the water.”

Paddle boarders stand on boards, similar to surf boards in the water and use a paddle to move themselves in the water; whereas surfing is fast and furious, paddle boarding is peaceful and introspective.

Groups who sign up for Paddle Freely with Kristen Terrill get a chance to be out in nature and learn a little about themselves, while having fun and learning how to paddleboard. The program offered by SUP-STL is unique and is the brainchild of two outdoor enthusiasts: one a business owner and one a medical doctor.

Dr. Kristen  Terrill (shown right) has one goal for this program: to help kids live their best lives. As a pediatrician, she sees them get bogged down by all sorts of things including physical issues and health concerns, but the number one thing she sees them struggle with is the process of becoming themselves in a crazy world that is quite difficult to navigate as a tween/teen.

When she first learned to paddle board, she says she recognized the healing power of being outside and taking time away from social media and the immediate pressures of life.

With each stroke of the paddle, she felt the weight of daily life falling off.  She felt strong, connected, and more authentically herself.  She felt “free” as she paddled; and that’s where they got the name for the program: Paddle Freely.

“Stacey and I met years ago when our kids were involved in local theater together,” said Terrill, “A couple of years ago. I had noticed so much positivity coming from her Facebook posts that I suggested we get together.”

Social media can be a good way to get like-minded people together.

“That summer in 2020 when COVID hit, I discovered my love of paddleb oarding, and started participating in as many SUP St Louis activities as possible–renting paddle boards, taking SUP Yoga, and doing river trips,” said Drake, shown right. “Not only did I need the fresh air, activity, and time on the water for my mental health and overall peace and centeredness, but it was a great activity to invite friends to because we could social distance. Kristen started coming, and we soon shared a similar paddle passion!”

The following summer, 2021, they both bought their own paddle boards and continued to share paddle adventures and outings when they could, but soon it was all about to change.  In spring of 2022, the owner and founder of SUP St Louis, Shane Perrin announced that he wouldn’t open for the season for personal reasons, and he mentioned that he would consider selling the business if he found the right buyer.

Drake  was so entrenched in  the organization and her new-found hobby that she thought about it and then decided to buy the business. One of the first people she thought of was Kristen and she texted her that she was planning to buy the business. This got Terrill’s juices flowing and soon she was developing a business proposition.

“She told me her vision of sharing her love of paddle boarding with kids, and using the same opportunity to share that passion to open & lead discussions about tough topics with them while on the water,” said Blake.  “Just a few weeks after we opened, Kristen and I traveled together to the Lake of the Ozarks to attend a national Paddle Fit’s Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) instructor certification course, and the following week she taught her first Paddle Freely class.

Terrill, who has always enjoyed being active with her family, running, gardening and reading, has a passion for young people (including her patients) and feels mental well-being is just as important as physical.

Her favorite poem is “Success” by Ralph Waldo Emerson, which says, “…to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

Terrill liked what she heard from Drake and vice versa.

“She was part of a group called Big Life,” said Terrill. “This is a mentor modeled group focused on following God and living a life of adventure.

“Stacey and I share the philosophy of wanting to give our best to others while authentically growing into who God wants us to be. We view life as an adventure! Last summer, Stacey became the owner of SupStLouis. We had both paddled with them for a couple of summers. When I heard that she bought the company, my mind began spinning with ideas.”

They both took paddle board classes and the consequences of like-minds helped them combined on a unique idea which pairs learning a new skill– paddle boarding– with gaining confidence and self esteem.

“Kristen still helps me as a second guide on river paddles,” said Blake. “She’s still (and probably always will be) one of my favorite paddle people.”

It was their desire to help others that helped create the event for Rainbows for Kids.

“I think teaching kids how to paddle on a stand up paddle board empowers them and shows them they can do hard things, even things that they may have been afraid to try,” she said. “It also gives them an opportunity to do something fun outside, in the fresh air, and is super fun.”

Drake  and SUP -STL along with Terrill will donate their time  and efforts to help the kids who have so much going on with their cancer. Drake has always loved adventure and most things outdoors, including hiking & boating, but before buying the company she had not specialized in paddle boarding.

She was instantly hooked, and knew she wanted to teach.  After returning home, she found that ST. Louis had a SUP organization, and started participating in as many paddle board events and classes as possible–SUP yoga, river paddles, and renting as often as possible.  She bought her first paddle board at the beginning of the 2021 summer season; she learned pretty quickly the sport was even more enjoyable with a friend and bought a second board soon after.

Lucky for the kids from Rainbows for Kids, she now owns a whole slew of paddle boards. If it’s more fun with a friend, imagine a whole bunch of friends.

The day the kids went was a perfect fall day, warm, sunny and mild. While it takes some balance to stand up on a paddle board, Kristen Terrill added a sense of fun to the day and announced “if anyone would like to just go ahead and jump into the water before we get started.”

She had some takers and throughout the peaceful paddle there were paddlers here and there that just jumped in and then climbed back on their boards. They are kids after all. And for the ones who fell, there was the lesson that it doesn’t matter how many times we fall down,  as long as we keep getting up.

Yoga on a paddle board may seem impossible but there are important reasons they do it. SUP yoga combines flexibility and strength exercises. There are also health benefits from the full range of motion plus the added effort of balancing. The combination can help improve muscle strength, balance, and overall body tone. Improved circulation is another big bonus with SUP yoga, and any balancing helps bone building.

Paddling provides both Terrill and Drake immense joy and peace. They both see the benefits in providing stillness and calm and peace of mind. It is the calm water and the beauty of nature. Terrill feels this is important in her role as a pediatrician also.

“As a pediatrician, I had watched the pandemic really cause kids to struggle,” she said. “Mental health visits soared. I had this idea that if I could get kids outside, trying something new, I might have a little window to talk to them about how to handle their emotions and how to weather the storms that come with adolescence. This turned into a curriculum based on these concepts that include take home explanations to hopefully facilitate communication between the kids and their parents.”

Both women love providing opportunities to be on the water, and as they say: to experience the same peace and empowerment that comes from being on the water in God’s creation.

A peaceful heart and an optimistic outlook on life goes a long way in a patient’s recovery and just how they will face each day. The young cancer patients hae experienced so many challenges and much difficulty in their life, it was just great for them to be “kids” and hang around with others.

With Terrill being a pediatrician and realizing how important a clear mind can be in one’s health and well-being, it is a win-win combination.

“This is my second summer offering these classes with SUP-STL,” she said. “For me, it is a very natural extension of how I practice medicine. I simply want to provide a physical and mental framework for kids to learn to  become themselves.”

During this time, the parents of children who have taken her class have asked if they could have a class, so she has started an adult class as well.

Blake is now a certified Yoga and SUP Yoga instructor with her goal being to share her  love and passion for SUP.
“Being on the water and outside in nature helps center me, and brings me so much joy and peace, and being on a paddle board is empowering–these are some of the things I want to share with as many people as possible,” she said. “Something else I love about paddle boarding is that someone can stand, sit, kneel or even lay in the middle of the lake if they want–so it is accessible for most ability & skill levels.  I also love that it is an activity that doesn’t have to take much time–anyone can take an hour out of their day to come paddle and experience a little peace on the water.”
They both encourage people to try paddle boarding and say you don’t have to wait for a vacation or even a day off to try it. They encourage making an appointment and just coming out for an hour or so to paddle and get rid of the stress of the day. The River’s Edge is right next to The Factory in Chesterfield Parking is in the lot next to The Factory and then you walk down a peaceful path to the lake, setting the tone for the mindfulness of the water.
Her slogan for SUP-STL is “Any day is a great day to be on the water.”
Drake says people choose to have paddle board events for many different reasons.
“We have had rentals, SUP Yoga, SUP101, and we even hosted our first paddle board bachelorette party this summer.”
They also do guided river trips.  Paddle, board rental and flotation device are included in the price, but they also have a BYOB option if you would rather bring your own.
With their “Paddle Freely” endeavors, it appears that Drake and Terrill do what it takes to  accomplish “success” in the eyes of Ralph Waldo Emerson: with each person who participates in one of their classes, a” life will breathe easier” that day because they were there.
The kids from Rainbows for Kids all breathed easier that day as they soaked in the sun of a perfect day plus learned they could do things they had never tried before.
Additional information on SUP-STL
Here is a newly released episode of ‘The American Dream: Selling St. Louis” that featured SUP St. Louis:

SUP-STL is not open on a regular basis, you must make an appointment but they are willing to work around people’s schedules to get them out on the water. The parking is provided by Michael Staenberg Group and is next to the area known as The District, by the Factory.

Where is The River’s Edge located? 
‘River’s Edge Park’; it is near Top Golf, off 40 at Boone’s Crossing.  Once you turn right onto North Outer 40 Road, look for the ‘Factory’  sign on the left, and turn left immediately into the parking lot.  On the hill on your left you should see the park sign, a gated trail, and the SUP flag.   You will walk up that hill (on the paved trail), over the paved bike path, then down into the wooded area.  Once you walk about 1/4 mile, you will see the lake & the picnic pavilion where it is set up.  You should always be sure Stacey will be there before heading out for a paddle, she has specific hours.
You can follow both Terrill and Drake on Facebook at: “SUP St. Louis” and “PaddleFreely with Kristen Terrill.”

Anyone interested in taking the classes or renting a paddle board should contact them.

To Book or Rent, click the button below:

For more information on Rainbows for Kids CLICK HERE.

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For the latest news and features in St. Louis Sports check out Rob Rains, Editor.