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Surf's Up at New Chelsea Piers Fitness Class

By Mathew Katz | December 16, 2011 7:03am

CHELSEA — The weather outside may be turning frightful, but Chelsea Piers has a new fitness class that'll have you dreaming of the beach — indoor surfing.

The class, which starts in January, lets aspiring and experienced surfers paddle, pop up, and ride imaginary waves while shedding pounds and toning muscles, using a machine that simulates a surfboard.

It's all done in the warmth of Chelsea Piers' Sports Center.

"What we're trying to do is re-create what a surfing workout would be like in a gym setting rather than being on the ocean," said Mike Hartwick, CEO of SurfSET Fitness, which will run the classes.

Hartwick created the simulated surfing machine, which he dubbed the RipSurferX, in early 2011 as an attempt to bring the kind of full-body workout surfers get in the ocean to a colder climate. The result is a board that tilts, turns, and even has resistance bands allowing users to paddle like they were going up against a current.

Hartwick and his company have run group classes in Boston and New York for months, but have found a more permanent home at Chelsea Piers, where they'll offer classes seven days-a-week. An eight-week "surf camp" will begin in January for $285. Single classes are $35.

"People smile during class," said Sarah Ponn, who will run the classes at Chelsea Piers. "I've been a fitness instructor for years and I've never seen that — usually people look like they want to kill you, and then at the end they're smiling."

"I surfed when I was in eighth grade, but never since, so this was really cool," said 28-year-old Jacqueline Boyle, who tried a class on Wednesday.

For those who don't want the group experience — or to even go to a gym — you can buy your own RipSurferX for $765.

"People are surfing year round, maybe they're not surfing in Manhattan, per se" said Hartwick. "Once it gets cold, it's tough to put on that thick wetsuit and get on the water."