Ah, spring! The time when most paddlers begin to emerge from hibernation and take their paddleboards out for their first excursion of the year (unless you’re among us hardy ones that go through the winter). The ice has finally melted, opening up waterways that were inaccessible during the cold, snowy months. The days are longer, allowing for more opportunities for pre and post work paddles. It’s a time of hopefulness and renewal as the season blooms; we start dreaming of sunnier days ahead and shedding neoprene layers as the air and water temperature slowly warm up.
This hopefulness is good because it’s not always the prettiest time of the year. As spring starts, trees are still bare and the landscape is mostly brown and grey, with only hints of greens and whispers of flowers. There are rainy days to plan around, gloomy skies that can dampen an excursion, and muddy banks to navigate on the way to the shore or launch point. But it’s not without its upsides. If you catch spring on a good day, it can reward you with summerlike weather and wildlife spotting. On recent paddle excursions to Tommy Thompson Park and the Toronto Islands, I came across a fox, a coyote, a couple of sunbathing turtles, and swans with their young.
Are you ready to come out of your cocoon and step onto your paddleboard? Great! Then the first question is what to wear. Don’t be fooled by the rising temperatures. The air might feel a bit toastier, but that does not mean the water has warmed up. Luckily spring is when the buoys are placed back in the water, providing useful data such as wave height and water temperature. Check the water temperatures in your area and select your neoprene or drysuit layers according to that temp. As I type this, the closest buoy to Toronto is reading 6.3 degree Celsius. In this case, for flatwater SUPers, a drysuit, 5/4mm or 4/3mm wetsuit with 5mm booties, is advisable. Light gloves, like 2 or 3mm neoprene surf gloves or paddler’s gloves, will keep the hands warm. Cold shock is still a real threat and it’s best to be prepared.
While you’re sorting through your neoprene, why not do some SUP gear spring cleaning. Pull out your board, paddle, and leash and see if anything needs to be cleaned, repaired, or replaced. Make sure your PFD or lifejacket are still in good working order (and if you don’t have either, take this as a sign to buy one). If you’re ready to part with any of your gear, now is a good time to sell as this is when people tend to buy in anticipation of summer. Your local online SUP or paddlers message board are usually a good bet for a quick sale. As for buying, don’t wait too long; like last year, sporting goods are in high demand and short supply. If you see it and like it, grab it before it’s gone.
Spring is also an ideal time to set your goals and schedule in anticipation of peak SUP season. Ask yourself where you’re at with your paddling, where you want to go with it, and what you need to do to get there. Maybe you’ve been dreaming of a camping trip by way of SUP. Or you’ve been wanting to try your hand at some of the local paddleboard races. Perhaps gearing up for SUP surf season in the fall is your jam. Whatever your goals, let spring be the time you get the ball rolling and make a plan. There are some great resources out there to help you. Paddle Canada offers some great courses that go beyond the basics and can get you proficient in river, surf, and touring. Parks Canada and all the provincial park systems provide information and recommendations for visiting paddlers. Regional race schedules have been posted with virtual and in-person options, where possible. Paddling Magazine and Standup Journal are fun to flip through for inspiration and the latest in gear. Paddle Monster offers a library of SUP training and technique videos on their YouTube channel.
The spring season is a wonderful catalyst for starting anew. But with all this SUP preparation and dreaming and planning, don’t forget to just get out there and do it. Shake off those cobwebs and get your board out of the garage. Take advantage of the quieter days before the summer rush. Breathe in the fresh air and feel the warmth of the sun, as you once again dig your paddle in the clear waters. It’s time to celebrate! Spring is here and your SUP season has begun.
Jordan-na is a Montreal-born, Toronto-based SUP instructor and lake surfer. She has been paddleboarding for over seven years and is certified with the World Paddle Association. Her SUP and surf adventures have taken her to spots in Canada, Hawaii, the continental US, and the Philippines. She has been featured in the Toronto Star and the Welland Tribune, as well as the short documentary film “In Winter.” She is also an organizer for Lake Surfistas, a grassroots group that connects and empowers women who surf the Great Lakes. Find her on Instagram.