Yo Alberta, SUP: how and where to paddleboard in Alberta
Stand up paddleboarding, or SUP for short, originated back in the 1960s in Hawaii but has since gone global thanks to professional surfers like Laird Hamilton who started utilizing the sport as a way to get a full-body workout when the ocean was too calm for traditional surfing.
These days you're just as likely to find paddleboarders on lakes or rivers as you are on the ocean, which is great news for landlocked provinces like Alberta where you will find plenty of picturesque locations to launch your board right through this September.
Stand up paddleboarding may seem more intimidating than other paddle-based sports simply because you’re required to be in a standing position. Thankfully the board’s design is quite stable meaning most beginners are able to stand up and start paddling shortly after trying the sport for the first time.
Learning the basics of Stand-up paddleboarding
Balancing on your standup paddleboard
A couple of tips to keep in mind when you’re just starting out include working your way onto the board from a kneeling position while placing your hands near the edges. Keeping your knees slightly behind the centre of the board and attempting to place your feet, one at a time, where your knees used to be.
Once you’re standing, balance is key. Keep your feet about hip-width apart, evenly spaced between the edges of the board with your toes pointing forward. Avoid staring at your feet, instead focus your eyes on the horizon. One of the biggest mistakes I see with beginners is how they hold their paddle.
When paddling on the right side of your board, your left hand should be at the top of the paddle on the T-grip with your right hand further down the shaft of the paddle. Switch your hand placement when paddling on the left side.
SUP & water safety
Other things to keep in mind when you’re just starting out include, bringing and wearing safety equipment such as a PFD, a leash, and a whistle. Opting for flat water, such as a lake, over moving water, like a river, will increase your chances of success.
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Although not always possible, choosing calm days with little-to-no wind will also make for a pleasant first outing. Lastly, paddle with a buddy. Not only is this sport more fun to do with friends, it is also much safer in case something goes wrong.
With today’s technology choosing a board can seem daunting as there are boards for all types of paddlers, water, and activities. Ask yourself how you will be using the board the majority of the time and then start doing some research. I am confident you’ll narrow the options down in a hurry. Personally, I prefer a board that is both flexible enough to be used on moving water, but sturdy enough to handle some chop while paddling on flat water.
I also highly recommend an inflatable board. Easy storage, efficient transport, and when fully inflated a firmness that rivals ridgid boards makes the choice a no brainer. Plus, if you invest in an electric SUP pump, you won’t have to manually inflate your board everytime.
Top places to SUP in Alberta
I have been fortunate to have paddled many of the mountain lakes in southern Alberta. Some of my personal favourites include Moraine Lake and Two Jack Lake (both in Banff NP), Pyramid Lake (Jasper NP), Upper Kananaskis Lake (Peter Lougheed PP), and the reservoir in Canmore.
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If you’re really looking for an adventure though, try hiking your board to a body of water that is not vehicle accessible. Recently I had the pleasure of doing this at Boom Lake in Banff and I have now opened Pandora's box. The experience was so incredible that I am now actively looking for more lakes where this is possible. I guess we are only limited by our imagination and our fitness.
Beat the heat this summer and get out on the water. I know you’ll have a blast!
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