Thursday, August 28, 2014

5 Reasons to Introduce Stand Up Paddleboarding to the Family

I've spent the last three summers paddling my way across Alberta and BC on my stand up paddle board.  I've done SUP overnight paddle trips, I've fallen into glacial cold water, and I've battled head winds strong enough to bring me to my knees while my board spun in circles with each stroke against the wind.

 Regardless of the challenges, I love this awesome sport and I wouldn't choose any other vessel to take with me on the water.  We even sold our canoe so that my husband and son could join me on my adventures and bought a nice tandem kayak for the two of them.

Stand up Paddleboarding - Family Friendly!
 Stand up paddleboarding is a great family activity!  While the board may appear to comfortably carry one adult, I can testify that these boards can easily carry an adult and up to three small children or a dog.  Children can even accompany you on easy river trips and the whole family can join you for an afternoon at the lake.

Red Deer River Overnight Paddle Trip
This dog rides on the family board as much as the kids do.

5 Reasons to Introduce SUP to the Family

One - A SUP board is a LOT of fun around camp or at the beach.  Kids view the boards as water toys in the same way they enjoy playing in floating rafts or using inflatable swim toys, swim noodles, or kid-sized boats. 

Playing around at camp this summer

Two - A SUP Board adds fun to long river trips.  Kids get tired of sitting in a canoe or kayak for long periods of time but they'll always enjoy a break on your board for a while.  And I've even seen kids take river naps on them!

River Nap on a SUP
One adult, two kids, and an inflatable SUP for a fun river trip!

Three - Paddling is Safer when you have more than one vessel.   By dividing your family into multiple boats, rather than fitting everybody into one canoe, you are making it easier to do a water rescue should need arise.  We always travel with my husband and son in a tandem kayak, and me on my board.  If I have a problem, they can rescue me.  If my son falls in, I can maneuver my board over and pick him up.  If both of them fall in, I can still pick them both up to at least transport them to shore.  If however, we were all in one canoe and had problems, it would be a lot harder.

Family Overnight Paddling Trip in Kananaskis
Our Tandem Kayak - perfect for overnight or day trips

Four - The Cost of SUP boards is going down.  Really, it is.  I was on the Mountain Equipment COOP page the other day and there are a lot of boards on clearance right now.  Last year I got my full package (board, paddle, fin, leash, and case) for less than $800.00 at Costco.  That's a LOT cheaper than a good kayak or a canoe!  A family could even buy two boards, put a child on each board with one of the parents for day trips, and it would be a lot cheaper than buying a canoe or two kayaks.

Buy two boards and enjoy time with friends on the river

Five - A SUP board is a lot easier to transport than a heavier canoe or kayak.  Buy an inflatable SUP and you can fit it into a small compact car.  Buy a regular board and you can still stick it in the back of your truck or on top of your small car.  However, you choose to carry the board, it is easier than transporting a canoe or kayak.

Carrying my board in the back of the truck.

And Bonus Reason Number 6 - No Learning Curve!  The following photo was taken 10 min. after trying SUP for the first time ever.  And my son was only 3 at the time.

Balance comes naturally to most people on a SUP board.

Where to SUP in Western Canada

Paddling around Calgary and area

 For information on where to try SUP around Calgary, read my story, Stand up Paddleboarding in Calgary, that I wrote for Family Fun Calgary.  In this story, I list off my fav. places to paddle in the Calgary area. I also talk about where to rent boards in the city and where you can rent on site without having to transport a board.

Evening paddling on the Ghost Reservoir outside Calgary

Paddling through Banff, Kananaskis, and Canmore

I wrote a story called Touring the Canadian Rockies on a Stand Up Paddleboard and it covers the entire area from Waterton in the south to Jasper in the north.

Paddling on the Vermilion Lakes in Banff

Paddling on Moraine Lake, Lake Louise

Finally, more on paddling in the Banff and Kananaskis area can be found in my recent story:  Family Canoeing and Kayaking in the Canadian Rockies.

Paddling at Lake Louise in Banff National Park

Paddling in Jasper National Park and Edmonton 

I haven't paddled much near Edmonton yet but I wrote a story on Stand up Paddleboarding in Edmonton for Family Fun Edmonton that was just published.  It lists off a few places you can try SUP in the local area. 

Paddling on  Lake Annette in Jasper outside Edmonton

My story, Touring the Canadian Rockies on a Stand Up Paddleboard also covers the Jasper area with my favourite lakes to paddle in the area.

Paddling on Pyramid Lake, Jasper

Paddling through Southern Alberta


Waterton Lakes National Park

We've done a lot of paddling in Waterton Lakes National Park and it's one of my favourite places to take my board out on the water.

 "All non-motorized watercraft from outside of the park are prohibited from entering water bodies in Waterton Lakes National Park."

Paddling on Cameron Lake in Waterton Lakes National Park

My story, Touring the Canadian Rockies on a Stand Up Paddleboard covers the Waterton area with some of our favourite lakes to paddle in the area. 

I also wrote a second story purely on paddling in Waterton called Paddling in Waterton Lakes National Park.  It covers pretty much every paddle you could think of doing in the area.

Snow on the shores of Cameron Lake in Waterton Lakes National Park


Paddling The Red Deer River 

Another favourite is the Red Deer River from Central Alberta down to Dinosaur Provincial Park in the south.

Read more here: Paddling the Alberta Badlands

I've also covered a lot of Southern Alberta in this story: Campsite to River! Camping and Floating across Southern Alberta

Paddling on the Red Deer River near Dinosaur Provincial Park

Paddling in Little Bow Provincial Park

The Travers Reservoir is a beautiful place to paddle based out of a great family-friendly campground.  There is information on Little Bow Provincial Park in my camping story:  Two Campsites and Eight Families.

Paddling on the Travers Reservoir, Little Bow Provincial Park

  Paddling through Writing on Stone Provincial Park on the Milk River

We've camped in Writing on Stone Provincial Park twice now, spending our days paddling on the Milk River.  The scenery was incredible and the sections of river we did were very easy. 

More can be found in this story: Find us in the River: Camp Life at Writing on Stone Provincial Park 

Girl SUP Party on the Milk River
Hoodoos on the Milk River

British Columbia and Vancouver

I haven't done much paddling in the Vancouver area but we spent a week on the Sunshine Coast last summer and it was a lot of fun doing ocean SUP.

Paddling in Porpoise Bay outside Vancouver

I recently wrote a story for Family Fun Vancouver on Stand Up Paddleboarding in Vancouver and it's a great resource for families in that area.

More can be found in my story:  Mountain Family Meets Ocean on the Sunshine Coast

Paddling on the Ocean Near Vancouver

Paddling in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park

For some easy lake paddling, Surveyor's Lake near Fernie is a family favourite.  It's the only place I know where you can SUP with painted turtles.  The water is warm and it's a safe spot to try SUP for the first time.  They even rent boards on the campground beach.

Even Daddy gives SUP a try at Surveyor's Lake.

More on Surveyor's Lake can be found in my story:  Camping in British Columbia - Kikomun Creek.

Easy paddling on Surveyor's Lake, British Columbia

Paddling in the Columbia Valley on the Columbia River

Another favourite spot in British Columbia is the Columbia Valley near the town of Invermere.  We like to paddle the Columbia River, which has to be the most family-friendly river we've ever found!!

Paddling Trip down the Columbia River

For more on paddling the Columbia River, read my story:  Exploring the Columbia River Wetlands by Boat, Bike, and Hike

Also read Paddling and Camping on the Columbia River with Kids 

Family-friendly Paddling on the Columbia River

Paddling in the Okanagan and Shuswap Areas

We take a trip  out to the Okanagan area of British Columbia every summer and love paddling the warm waters of Skaha and Okanagan Lake.

Penticton is our favourite base camp and we've done some fun paddles between Naramata and Penticton as well as from Summerland to Naramata.  There's nothing like paddling to have lunch on a beach in a different town!

Paddling across Okanagan Lake for lunch

Boards can be rented on many of the beaches in Kelowna and Penticton and it's a great warm spot to try SUP for the first time.  No glacial cold water to fall in to here!

Trying SUP on Skaha Lake in Penticton
For more information on the Okanagan, read my story:  The Importance of Summer Vacations (and the BEST of the Okanagan.) 

I also wrote a story on camping in the Shuswap area where there is a lot of paddling to be enjoyed on Shuswap Lake. 

Paddling on Shuswap Lake

There are a LOT more places to get out with the kids on the water but hopefully I've at least inspired you to try SUP, to take the kids with you, and to introduce the sport to your family.  While not all of the photos in this story showed children riding on boards, we had kids present on over 90% of our paddles over the last few years now.

My Support Boat that joins me on all of my trips

We've done rivers, lakes, overnight trips, and even paddled when there was still ice on the water this past spring.  SUP is a family-friendly sport and I can't wait to see what cool trips we do over the next several years.

Spring Paddling - and yes, that is ice.

See you on the water


  1. SUPing in Canada looks gorgeous! Glad you are able to take the kiddos (and pup)! Thanks for sharing this inspirational post. It'd be great to see more kids getting into Stand Up Paddleboarding!

  2. We just purchased some paddle boards for an upcoming trip but this is all so new to me. What safety equipment do you normally carry? If I understand correctly we need a pfd, whistle and rope? Also do you let your kids paddle on their own? I was hoping to let them explore next to us on a paddle board but I also seen that under 16 isn't allowed to.
    Thank you for your time.

    1. Hi, rules can be quite different depending on where you live, but in Canada, you need to have a PFD on the board with you. You don't have to be wearing it, but I make sure my son is always wearing his. I'm a bit more guilty of attaching mine to my board unless I'm on a river and worry about falling in.

      Other safety gear would include a whistle which I attach to my PFD. Almost every boat is required to have a buoyant heaving line at least 15m long. SUPs and sit-on-top kayaks are exempt, provided everyone on board is wearing an approved PFD. So I guess technically you only need a rope if you're not wearing your PFD. I have one for my board and I usually bring it when I'm on rivers.

      As for kids, there are no rules here that would prohibit kids from using a paddleboard. My son has his own paddleboard and is on it all the time. He's 14.

      What I did find out is that youth must be over 16 to wear an inflatable PFD. If they are under that age they require a regular PFD (not the belt that some people wear.)

      There are great rules on the website below

    2. Thank you so much for the info. I'm always nervous to go into new territory and accidentally break rules. One of the paddle boards was purchased with the kids in mind and I was getting worried that he wouldn't be able to use it. We all have pfds so that's not a problem!