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Carleen Birnes introduced stand up paddle fitness to the Greater Annapolis Area in 2012, after getting certified through PaddleFit. Coming from the personal training world, Carleen saw the creeks, coves and rivers of the Chesapeake Bay as a fitness paradise, where her clients could trade in their exercise mats for ones that float — advancing cardio through paddling, and strength, flexibility and balance, through bodyweight exercises on paddleboards. Word quickly spread and her classes were jam packed with people rediscovering their connection to nature and moving in the outdoors. 

When Carleen heard about a local SUP race, she decided to give it a try. The rest is history. She was hooked, and swapped out her triathlon road bike and running shoes for a carbon paddle and race board. 

Over the years, she expanded her SUP programming, teaching the foundations of the performance stroke, SUP race clinics, SUP Yoga, SUP Bootcamp and kids camps to thousands of paddlers in and around the Chesapeake Bay. 

In 2015, she created the Mid-Atlantic's first weekly SUP race league, which helped broaden and deepen her local paddle community and spark a deeper interest in SUP racing. The popularity of her race league grew each year, and Carleen found herself adopting the role of race director to create more racing experiences and meet the demand of the expanding SUP racing community, along with developing the CHESUPEAKE race points series with her partner Nicky Stimpson

In 2021, Carleen was tapped as race director for Bay Bridge Paddle, one of the largest paddle races in the nation with over 400 paddlers that spread across paddleboard, outrigger canoe, surf ski, kayak and prone. 

By 2023, she's overseeing more races including Stand Up for the DE Bays, Dam Bridge Challenge, and is working closely with Baltimore Peninsula to bring an exciting SUP Run Challenge to their shores. 

When not teaching paddling, race training on the Magothy River, or working behind the scenes to build the sport of stand up paddle racing and recreation, Carleen can be found with the dolphins and pelicans, sliding into waves in Bali, Costa Rica, and Assateague Island. 


  • 12 years as a stand up paddle business owner, coach and athlete

  • Paddlesports Race Director

  • PSUPA Master Trainer - Flatwater, Ocean, SUP Yoga

  • ACE Certified Personal Trainer

  • ADAPT Functional Health Coach

  • 200 hr Yoga Teacher

  • PaddleFit Certified 

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