Paddleboarding for Perfect Pirouettes: Eugene Ballet’s Danielle Tolmie and Mark Tucker

November 29, 2022

Danielle Tolmie and Mark Tucker are no strangers to the great outdoors. When the Eugene Ballet principal dancers and husband-and-wife duo aren’t in the studio, they can often be found stand-up paddleboarding the rivers and lakes of Oregon. These days, you might even spot their 2-year-old Luca along for the ride. “We built him a stand on one of our boards, where he stands with his little fishing pole,” says Tucker. “Paddleboarding has become a family activity that also happens to complement our mental and physical health.”

Board to Be Wild

Why stand-up paddleboarding? “Not only is any activity on the water a cathartic experience, it’s literally a full-body workout,” says Tucker. Tolmie agrees: “Even the little ‘twitch’ muscles in your feet grip the board to help stabilize when it’s windy or you’re going over a wave.” They both find that paddleboarding challenges their cores and backs—muscle groups that are key for long, strong balances. As Tolmie says, “The next day, we’re always like, ‘Oh, it’s a good turning day because we went paddleboarding yesterday.’ ”

A man stands on a paddleboard on a lake. Behind him is his son in a secure stand and life jacket.
Mark Tucker and son Luca paddleboarding. Photo by Danielle Tolmie, courtesy Eugene Ballet.

They try to get out on the water twice a week for up to eight miles at a time, pending their rehearsal schedules. “If it’s a theater week and we have mornings off, we’ll try to go four or five times a week—but only for about three miles roundtrip,” says Tolmie. On chillier days, that often means bundling up in wetsuits before paddling out.

Individual Pursuits

Having grown up in Hawaii, Tucker also feels perfectly at home on a surfboard. From their Oregon home, “it takes at least an hour and 15 minutes to get to the ocean—as opposed to Hawaii, where you’re never more than 10 minutes from the beach. So I’m very happy if I get out there once a month to feed my surfing addiction,” he laughs.

Tolmie, for her part, is a charter member of the early-morning cross-training club. “I run four miles five days a week, as soon as I wake up. When I come back, I try to do between 20 and 45 minutes of yoga to stretch out all of those muscles that may have gotten tight from running.” Luca likes to join in here, too: “He tries to climb on me—but he also can downward dog, plank and lunge.”

A woman holds a plank position while her toddler son lies on her back.
Danielle Tolmie with her son Luca. Photo by Mark Tucker, courtesy Eugene Ballet.

Superfoods for Super Dancers

The couple is all about dialing in on key ingredients believed to pack a nutritional punch. As just one example, they take their morning coffee with coconut creamer and a customized powdered mix of several types of mushrooms: chaga (for gut health), cordyceps (for muscle recovery), lion’s mane (for mental fitness) and maitake (for microbiome health).

How-To: Paddleboarding Pointers

  1. “Don’t lock your knees,” says Tolmie. “You have way more control if you keep a slight bend all the time.”
  2. “Look to the horizon, as opposed to looking down at the ground,” says Tucker. Finding—and keeping—your balance can be especially challenging. “For most people who start paddleboarding, just going from kneeling to standing is a huge obstacle. But if you pick your eyes up and focus out, you’ll find you’re far more successful.”
  3. Relax into a grounded, centered stance. As Tolmie says, “It’s all about getting into your plié. The moment you tense up, it’s game over.”