Welcome to summer — this is the season SUP was made for. Lazy days of leisurely cruising the lake at the cottage. Getting out and exploring new waterways with friends. Stretching out in SUP yoga poses under the sun. Jumping off your board and plunging into the cool water. This is the easy-breezy season that we dream of, shedding our wetsuits and drysuits in favour of bikinis and boardshorts. But before you grab your board and go, here are a few tips for your best summer of SUP!
If you are new to paddleboarding, take an intro class with a local SUP school to get your skills up to par. You’ll be a more confident and safe paddleboarder. Then go out and find some new-to-you paddling spots. Toronto has a wealth of waterways that are ideal for the novice and are just waiting for you to explore. The Humber River is a lovely natural escape right in the city and is accessible by subway. The Beaches neighbourhood offers long stretches of sandy shoreline and crystal clear water to cruise along. The inner channels of the Toronto Islands are calm and protected, with opportunities for wildlife spotting and awesome views of the city skyline.
For more experienced paddlers, summer is an ideal time to level up your skills and try new things. Challenge yourself, whether by entering a race (check out the Ontario SUP Series), going SUP camping in one of the many provincial parks, or mastering a new trick (oh hello, pivot turn). Be brave and bold! The worst that can happen is a refreshing dunk in the drink.
But in our joy and haste to grab our boards and enjoy those hot days on the water, we sometimes forget about the safety aspect. And that’s a big no-no. Yes, the risk factor is less than the fall or winter, but we always need to be mindful when getting out on the water. First, for our personal well-being and safety, and second, because it is the law.
Transport Canada requires that you have a personal floatation device (PFD) or lifejacket and a sound signaling device (a pea-less whistle is ideal). If you are wearing both items, you are good to go. If you only have your PFD/lifejacket on your board (and not on your body), you’ll also need to carry a buoyant heaving line at least 15 meters long. Planning to paddle around dawn or dusk? Add a watertight flashlight to your kit. Not following these rules can result in a pricey fine.
Being out on the water puts you right in the sun, especially if you are out on Lake Ontario. This puts you at risk for heat stroke or even hyperthermia, a condition when your body temperature is abnormally high. Keep yourself sun safe by wearing a hat, sunscreen, and even a rash guard. Find some shade if possible. Make sure to keep hydrated. And no, beer does not count. It’s actually against the law to consume alcohol while navigating a personal watercraft. Follow the popular boating safety slogan (“Water on the water, beer on the pier”) and reward yourself with a frosty cold one après-SUP.
Following these few easy tips will make the most of your summertime SUP adventures. We’ve been dreaming about this all year, so what are you waiting for? Grab your gear and go! We’ll see you on the water.
Words by Jordan-na Belle-Isle. Header photograph by Bruce Kirby, remaining photographs by Red Paddle Co.
Jordan-na Belle-Isle is a Montreal-born, Toronto-based expert in all things related to stand up paddleboarding (SUP). She is an instructor, writer, and community builder who SUPs and surfs the Great Lakes year-round. A recognizable face in the local scene since 2012, she obtained her first instructor certification in 2017, and has collaborated with organizations and brands such as ROXY, Surf the Greats, Patagonia, Toronto Island SUP, A Greener Future, and Explore Magazine. Her image has been used in a national campaign for Tourism Canada and she has been interviewed by several media outlets such as PBS, Breakfast Television, and the Toronto Star. Jordan-na is a proud team member of Taiga Board and a co-organizer for Lake Surfistas. Learn more at jordannabelleisle.com and find her on Instagram.