Wednesday, September 05, 2012

A Recipe For Great Family Memories - Just Add Water!

We love living on the doorstep of the Canadian Rockies and Kananaskis is our playground.  We hike, we camp, we climb, and we explore.  This summer we added biking to the mix and shortly we'll be pulling out our skis again.  Something was missing though and until this summer I don't think any of us realized it.  We had land, rock and snow covered but water was somehow missing from the package.  How can you be a true multi-sport family without diving into water sports?

Our son has always loved water.


Our journey to become a paddling family started on the August long weekend this summer.  We used canoes to access a backcountry campground in Kananaskis.  You can read the full story here, How to Fit 7 People in a Canoe:  Backcountry Adventures in Kananaskis.  We discovered how much easier it is to travel by boat into the backcountry when you have young children.  Our past trips had required Chariots and Ski Pulks, which though great for carrying kids and gear, don't carry nearly as much as a tripping canoe.

Canoeing in Kananaskis (Photo:  Jen Sollid)

To our surprise we discovered that our son likes canoeing, loves being on the water, and is able to sit still without falling out of the boat.  He does have a short attention span though so trips longer than an hour definitely need to be broken up!  - and here is where I beg for comments at the bottom of this post with suggestions on how to entertain kids in a canoe.

The best part of canoeing for a child - the breaks!


A few weeks ago, we were fortunate to be able to try kayaking for the first time on our trip out to the Kootenay Rockies in British Columbia.  You can read that story here, Mama Loves Glamping.  I've wanted to try kayaking for over ten years now so it was pretty epic for me to finally get the chance!  Even better was getting to take our son with us on our first paddle.  He apparently loved the experience because "go kayak" was called out from the backseat the whole way back to Calgary afterwards.  Every lake we passed was a reminder to him that we should be out on the water.  And I couldn't agree more!

First Time in a Kayak

We came home and within a week had purchased our own canoe.  It's been out 5 times already and we've only had it a week.  I'd call it a successful purchase!  We really wanted to buy kayaks but with our paddling experience level as it is and our son still being so young, figured canoeing was the safer option for now.

Canoeing last weekend in Little Bow Provincial Park

Stand Up Paddle Boarding

The final step on our journey to becoming a paddling family began in the Okanagan as part of our vacation in British Columbia.  I had two things on my list when we headed out on vacation.  One -  Find a kayak to rent or borrow, and Two - Find out what all the fuss with Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) was all about.  I've heard so much about SUP that I've grown curious by the sport and really wanted to try it.  I figured if there was any place I could rent a board, the warm lakes of the Okanagan would surely be the spot!  And sure enough - we got to Kelowna and there was a rental shop set up right on the Rotary Beach next to our motel.  It wasn't cheap but for $20/hour I got to at least stand on a board, paddle around the roped off swimming area, and try paddling with Noah.  I was pleased to find the learning curve for the sport non existent.  If you can paddle a canoe, you can paddle a stand up board. The board I tried was really wide and long (at least 32 inches wide and over 11 feet long) making it excellent for beginner paddlers.  It was also plastic as opposed to fiberglass and after trying a fiberglass board in Penticton, I can say that I prefer plastic for increased stability.

First time SUP'ing in Kelowna on Okanagan Lake
Noah and I paddling together

I rented another board on Skaha Lake in Penticton and again got to paddle around the swimming area.  It was a bit cheaper at $25 for two hours but the experience left me wanting to get out past the roped off "safe" area.  What would it be like to paddle out across the lake, to go touring on the board with my lunch to a little island or secluded  beach?  What would it be like to paddle a river or channel?  I was hooked and a two hour rental experience wasn't going to be enough.

SUP'ing in Penticton on Skaha Lake

So, how hooked was I?  Hooked enough that I've now bought my own board and it's hanging in my garage right now.  I have a paddle, a life jacket, a wet suit for the cold Rocky Mountain lakes, and tears in my eyes as I type and think about my new board.  I knew I couldn't justify buying a new board as a beginner but I was very blessed to find a local store, Undercurrents, selling off used boards at the end of the season.  I picked the board up yesterday and already have a girl's trip planned in a couple of weeks to the nearest and warmest lake I can find. 

I'll be writing a whole post in the future about my not so secret love affair with SUP but for the moment, let me just say that I've never really liked paddling until now.  Standing to paddle and being able to use your whole body as you do it is a whole new experience.  I also love the feeling of balancing on water, I love looking down on the water as I paddle (something you can't do as easily from a canoe), and I love the sound my paddle makes as it cuts through the water.  I've always wanted to find a water sport I loved and I've finally found it.  Canoeing is a great family activity but SUP is my new passion and chosen individual sport.  I've never tried a new sport before and gone out within the week to buy all the requisite gear.  That should say something I imagine.

Check back soon for our latest September long weekend camping adventures.  I rented a  SUP board from Mountain Equipment Coop for the weekend and along with a lot of canoeing, it was a fabulous paddling weekend.  (and I only fell off my board twice.)

Paddling on the Travers Reservoir in Little Bow Provincial Park

It's always good to paddle with friends


What's your family's favourite water sport? 


  1. Regarding what to do in a canoe for kids: Get him a little compass and get him learning his directions!

    1. Good idea. Thanks. Though, does that mean I have to learn to use a compass? ;)

  2. We love our kayaks, canoes come a close second. I love SUP but it's more for a fun day at the beach thing for me and the water had better be warm - we're looking at Christina Lake next year.

    1. I think for many/most people SUP is a warm water activity. You're not alone there. Would love to take up kayaking in the future. And I hear Christina Lake is beautiful.

  3. swimming (mostly at the pool unfortunately, but we hope to do it at the lake sometime soon, or latest by next summer). hubby was gonna take our daughter out to the Reservoir to sail but we've been busy and out of town for at least half of it, so another "next summer" activity to do with her.

    1. I was also going to say that now I am intrigued by SUP, you sure look like you're having a fun time on the paddleboard!!

    2. Very much having a fun time on the paddle board. Check back for the next camping story to see all the photos of the kids on it.