The weather was unsettled when I met up with Katherine Weed to go stand up paddleboarding. Weed runs Stoke Paddleboard Adventures with Jess Leahey and she agreed to show me the ropes on this fast growing sport.
A bit of rain had come and gone and the sky was cloudy, but we decided to take our chances. Weed picked me up at work in her truck and we drove up to Carnes Creek, which she described as her favourite place near Revelstoke to paddbleboard, with its long inlet that stretches into the Selkirk Mountains east of Lake Revelstoke.
“I just find water so Yin and calming,” Weed told me on the way to Carnes Creek. “My winter days – I’ll go ski touring all day and then go give five massages. They’re so physical and so tiring; I find the water really relaxing.”
Weed is a certified paddleboard instructor. She’s spent the last few years splitting her time between Revelstoke and Tofino, where she would go to surf all summer. This year, she decided to stay in Revelstoke, and the opportunity to take over the paddleboard rental company started last year by Steve Parsons came up. She and Leahey went into business together; they have four boards for rent at $50 per day each.
“It’s a nice way to get away from everything,” Weed said. “It’s really relaxing in the way that canoeing is relaxing. You just hear the paddle on the water.”
I was tempted to dismiss paddleboarding as a fad but its clearly taking off in big ways, with people all over taking up the sport and competitive and fun races sprouting up. Last year Kai Lenny became the first ever world paddleboarding champion at Turtle Bay Resort in Hawaii
Much like surfing, SUP has its origins in Hawaii. According to the website SUPGlobal.com, it began in the 1960s as a way for surfers to reach waves and pose for photographs for tourists. It didn’t really start to take off as a sport until this century, when people started taking their boards beyond the waves onto oceans, lakes and rivers.
Most boards are made using special plastics with a foam core, though some are made out of wood and inflatable boards also exist.
I’d tried stand-up paddle-boarding once before at a demo day hosted by Free Spirit Sports, who started selling paddleboards earlier this year. Getting my balance for those first few seconds was a bit of a challenge, but once I got moving, it became mostly second nature. Paddling was a different story – it was easy to go straight, but I found it very slow to turn.
And, while there was nothing wrong with it, I couldn’t help but feel limited by stand-up paddle-boarding. If I want to get out on the water, why would I choose a paddleboard over a canoe, which is easier to paddle, is more stable, and you can carry stuff in it.
Phil Garneau with one of his cedar paddleboards. Photo by Alex Cooper/Revelstoke Times Review
Phil Garneau is onboard the SUP bandwagon. While he told me that he hasn’t taken part in the sport that much himself, he started building paddle-boards after being inspired by an article in Kootenay Mountain Culture about Nelson builder Steve Kerr.
“At the time I was doing surveying for Downie. All the time I spent in the woods for the logging industry, I was passionate about doing something with those resources,” he said. “I started scheming and at one point it became reality to build boards with cedar.”
His boards are built with a mix of yellow and red cedar, as well as plywood for the frame. The cedar is sourced locally, though some was salvaged from a beached tree on the coast.
“Essentially it’s like building a cedar strip canoe or kayak so I used those techniques to build paddbleboards,” he said.
Garneau grew up in the Carribean and South Pacific sailing and surfing so he was attracted to the idea of building paddleboards, especially with their rise in popularity.
“I can see the allure because it’s like surfing. You’re on a board and your vantage point is higher than what it would be in a canoe or kayak,” he said. “Paddleboarding is like any other boat. They can be designed any shape, size, for anybody. There’s shapes and designs for ocean going, for lakes, for surfing. It allows a lot of people who don’t necessarily have the ability to surf, to surf. Paddling into mellow waves is far easier than paddling in on your stomach.”
He had two nearly-finished boards at his workshop, with two others down on the coast with a friend. It’s his goal to start a business manufacturing and selling paddleboards, but for now he described it as a hobby and eventually he plans on venturing out on his own boards. “It’s a great way to get out onto the water and it’s great fitness,” he said. “You’re engaging more of your core versus in a canoe.”
With Katherine Weed we reached Carnes Creek and unloaded the boards from the truck. Weed had her own board, while the rental was a Bic Peter Pan design board that was just over 10 feet long. We took them out of their cases and placed them in the water just as the rain returned. We each grabbed a lifejacket, which is required while paddleboarding as the boards are considered a vessel.
We started off by pushing out from the shore. The first step was to kneel on the board and then stand up one foot at at time. I stood up slowly, making sure to maintain bmy balance. Above the glacier below Hat Peak, on the western shore of Lake Revelstoke, the sky was blue, but a light rain pitter-pattered on the water around us.
Weed, who is a certified paddleboard instructor and can give lessons, demonstrated the basic paddling technique – essentially you want to lean forward and use your entire upper body while paddling. Your arms should stay straight, and strokes go from the front of the board to the middle, where you stand. I found it hard to break my paddling habits developed from years of canoeing. I wanted to do a J-stroke, but I found it to be a very slow maneuvre. Turning involved doing a sweeping C-stroke, instead of the J-stroke I was used to. Weed glided quickly ahead of me as I figured things out.
We paddled close to shore as the rain intensified. The water splashed my feet as we went along. I wobbled but stayed upright. By the time we reached the Carnes Creek bridge, the rain and wind had picked up, so we decided to turn back. Paddling back, we headed straight into the wind. A few times the waves lifted my lifejacket off the board into the water and I had to bend over to pick it up.
We returned to shore about 30 minutes after we left, just as the rain stopped. “You’re not convinced?” Weed asked.
I still don’t think I am, though after two times I would say judging the sport would be very premature. Weed talked about the peacefulness and relaxation she gets from paddleboarding; the sense that she’s closer to the water than when in a boat.
“There’s so many different ways you can use them,” she said. “For me it’s a way of exploring areas around here that you can only get to by water.
“I don’t want to be on a boat. I want to feel like I’m closer to the water, where you’re feet get wet and you feel like you can fall in.”
Find out more about Stoke Paddleboard Adventures at stokepaddleboardadventures.com