Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

August 28, 2017

Our Stand Up Paddle Board Adventures on Lake Superior

Stand Up Paddle Board Adventures on Lake Superior

For various reasons (both fun and decidedly un-fun), we decided not to launch our sailboat this year.  I was definitely disappointed about that, especially because I just love being out on the lake.  But after realizing last year just how much work owning a sailboat is, a little part of me was looking on the bright side and relishing the idea of a lazy summer just relaxing and exploring the bay with our canoe.  But when we flipped our canoe over for the first paddle of the season, we realized that bees had moved into one end of it, safely hidden behind riveted panels we cannot remove.

How does one deal with bees in a canoe? 

Drive into town and buy two stand up paddle boards!
 
Our interest in stand up paddle boards had already been piqued because friends of ours had them and were eager to go paddling on our bay of Lake Superior.  A canoe full of bees was the motivation we needed to get boards of our own, so we spent an afternoon checking out the local sporting goods stores and found the perfect stand up paddle boards, made right here in Ontario.
 
Learning to Stand Up Paddle Board

Learning to stand up paddle board was super embarrassing.  We didn't watch a single YouTube video or anything - we just pushed them out into the water and hopped on.  Hubby took to it much more quickly than I did, but we were both wibbly wobbly enough for a neighbor to comment: "not as easy as it looks," when she saw us the next day.  I think this implies that we were terrible at it and the whole bay was watching us.  In my defense, I have not fallen off - not once - but I did spend a lot of time shrieking, "I'm going to FALL" in the beginning.  I wasn't prepared for how high I would feel: because the water is so clear most days, when I can see right down to the bottom it was surprisingly trippy at first.  Plus any little ripple in the water felt like it would send me ass over tea kettle.

But I got used to it!

Stand Up Paddle Board Adventures on Lake Superior
Stand Up Paddle Board Adventures on Lake Superior
   
We were both off work for all of August so we went out almost every day and now I feel so much more confident paddle boarding.  I started by kneeling and then once I got a feel for it, I would stand up only when the wind was calm.  Eventually I found it less nerve wracking to stand where the water was deep because I was convinced that if I fell I'd crack my head open where it was shallow.  Probably an irrational fear, but paddling in deeper water ultimately helped me feel more at ease - even though it weirded me out at first.

Although we still definitely prefer calm days, we have also been out on crazy wavy days and I'm starting to love the feeling of getting tossed around.  I still cannot fathom how people actually surf because on even slightly wavy days here I feel like an extreme sports enthusiast - even though we stick to our extremely sheltered bay. 

On the day of the solar eclipse, though, the bay was dead calm so we actually paddled right out into the open water, which was such a cool experience.  We'd actually never been that far away from our bay because it's usually prohibitively choppy, so it was so exhilarating.  Although I felt very exposed being on this tiny little board in open water, it was also so peaceful.  Until I got distracted by the rocks.  I didn't realize that beneath the water out there are these massive boulders - the size of cars, polished so smooth into giant eggs.  I was really expecting a more sandy bottom, like in the middle of the bay, so I guess that's why I'm super fascinated by this discovery.  I also didn't realize how much random stuff is in the water, which is also super distracting because part of me hopes I'll find a chest of gold.

Stand Up Paddle Board Adventures on Lake Superior

So far, no gold - just a lot of tires.  

Choosing the Right Stand Up Paddle Board

Choosing a paddle board was stressful because they're so pricey and every salesperson kept pushing the inflatable models.  We didn't really need the portability or small storage size of an inflatable board, although I did come very close to ordering this turquoise one from Amazon because of the color (of course) but also the great reviews and price - especially considering that it comes with an adjustable paddle and coil leash (even the paddle is aqua, I'm drooling).  Living right on the lake, we don't plan to bring ours anywhere so we liked the convenience of a rigid board - plus no possibility of leaks!  After spending days playing, "where is the air leaking from?" with the old inflatable Zodiac we use for our tender, neither of us were super excited about the inflatable paddle boards.  Once we started shopping though, we were blown away by some of the prices of the rigid fiberglass boards. 

We hadn't really planned to spend thousands of dollars per board but it really seemed that it was either that or a $500 plastic one from Canadian Tire that got ho-hum reviews online.  When a salesperson let it slip that the fiberglass ones are actually really delicate and they can't be dragged over rocks or anything rough, it seemed like we might not get paddle boards after all.  Luckily we stumbled across the perfect one at a local place (Chaltrek for my Thunder Bay friends - they rent them too).  The Inukshuk (by Clear Water Designs) is linear polyethylene with molded fins and it's durable as heck, which is perfect for our rocky shore.  Plus it has a deck bungie and a paddle holder, which is really convenient. 

Stand Up Paddle Board Adventures on Lake Superior

The $799 price tag was a bit pricier than the Pelican ones from Canadian Tire, but our friend bought one of those and after we compared the two, we found ours was much more stable, plus the Pelican board weight rating didn't seem accurate because it seemed to really sink.  Plus I could get blue with the Inukshuk!

Stand Up Paddle Board Adventures on Lake Superior

Do you like my t-shirt?  I know that the SUP lifestyle demands a slim blond gal in a skimpy bikini for photos but this is my paddle boarding tee - it has sharks on it :)

Stand Up Paddle Board Adventures on Lake Superior

Hubby picked out a black and white board.  I quite obviously picked out his turquoise swim trunks.


Stand Up Paddle Board Adventures on Lake Superior

Like so many hobbies, the cost of this one definitely added up pretty quickly.   

 
In addition to two boards, we also each bought a coil leash (a must-have) and an adjustable paddle (If I had money to burn, I'd totally splurge on this turquoise one).  I liked the adjustable style because when I was first learning if it got really wavy I'd kneel for stability and the adjustable paddle was great for that, plus it's perfect for sharing my SUP with friends and family when they come to the lake to play.  I almost always stand to paddle but a friend of ours only kneels and she uses a kayak paddle, which actually would be really nice on choppier days, so I am currently shopping for a small one (this one's cute!) to keep clipped to my board. 
 We both already had a life jacket but I'm thinking of buying a newer style that's meant for SUP and offers a better range of motion.  We both have one of these self-inflatable ones on the boat but I keep an older style from our early days of sailing at home and that's what I've been using for now.  For the last bit of "gear," they don't look very cool, but we found that these cheap water shoes from Walmart (wish I'd seen these aqua ones) are the comfiest option because they can get wet and still offer good traction - flip flops are terrible for paddle boarding and bare feet feels weird for me, especially when we hop on and off on our pebbly shore. 
 
Stand Up Paddle Board Adventures on Lake Superior

In the end, I'm grateful for those bees moving into our canoe because we've been having SO much fun with our stand up paddle boards.  Now that we have the hang of it, it's really enjoyable and I love that there's no set up required: we just grab our boards and head down to the water and hop on.  It's such a great workout and such a beautiful new perspective of the lake.  My only complaint is that summer is ending soon and now I have one more reason to miss the warmer weather...

Nobody talk about fall!

Instead, tell me: have you tried stand up paddle boarding?          

Stand Up Paddle Board Adventures on Lake Superior
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13 comments

  1. I tried SUP on a vacation to BC this summer. I was doing SO well (my husband fell many times- it was hilarious). and then right as we were going in I lost balance and fell in! haha too funny.

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    1. It sounds like you had so much fun!! You almost had a perfect record, haha. Sounds like you had a much better hang of it than hubs! My only REALLY close call was when we were paddling with friends and their golden retriever hopped in after us and made a beeline for me. I thought for sure I'd tip as I struggled to miss him but he kept coming for me. I ended up kind of bonking him by accident but I didn't fall - and he was totally fine!

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  2. I didn't find SUP to be terribly difficult per se... I just didn't enjoy it! Maybe I was doing it wrong but I barely moved and it was exhausting, haha. Definitely not a relaxing recreation in my book. I'd rather just float in the water. (I was a swimmer and I'm always the only one happy to jump into a frigid Lake Superior!)

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    1. I love hearing that you brave the frigid water too! I love swimming in the lake. I've always loved swimming in superior but not many people are willing to. We should start a club, haha. I think the water determines if paddle boarding is fun. On calm days we just kind of coast along, exploring. Those wavy days are a crazy good workout. But I can totally see how it's not for everyone. I myself find kayaks super stressful but everyone around here looooves them.

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  3. So cool! Years ago, I was frolicking in the water in Hawaii and a woman paddled by. I asked her how hard it was, and before I knew it, she was in the water and insisting I try it. I managed to get right up and had fun for the few minutes I used her board. Going back to Hawaii in October (Yay!), and we're going to take real lessons this time.
    How did you get your aerial shots? Do you have a helicopter, too? ;-) A drone?

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    1. What a sweet woman!! I'm so jealous you'll be taking lessons in Hawaii - that sounds like so much fun and what an incredible vacation. Argh I'm so envious!! I hope you have an amazing time!!

      I wish I had a helicopter, lol. We bought a drone. I wanted to take videos of us sailing but that will have to wait another year :)

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  4. I tried it a couple of times but it wasn't enjoyable for me. Every time it was from the beach and maybe it was the equipment, the water conditions or my height no but I couldn't seem to stop my legs from shaking. My son popped right off and paddled away. However, the wind drove him far from shore very quickly and that was a little scary for all of us.

    I will stick to kayaking until I can revisit SUP on a totally calm body of water.

    Do the pups go with you?

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    1. I have definitely been amazed at how far the wind can take me with the SUP. Did your son's experience scare him off of it?

      I admire your kayaking skills! Those really trigger an irrational fear for me I am deathly afraid of them. But it looks fun from afar!! Neighbors around here LOVE it.

      No I am too worried the pups will tip me! Szuka was always good in a canoe and we did buy a mini life jacket for Hynda but I worry they'll just dive right off (or slip off) and take me with them, lol. Plus Szuka is too heavy, I don't think the board could hold us both lol.

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  5. Our son says he thought it was fun but honestly, I think he picked up on my fear even though I tried VERY hard to control myself. He said he liked falling off over and over more than paddling.

    We kayak a lot. The creek by our cottage has very nice kayaking but the window for water levels is narrow and entirely dependent on rainfall. There is a nice lake not to far away that is perfect for kayaking and has the added bonus of a nice winery and picnic spot (bring your own food) on the way home.

    Like SUPs, kayaks can range from scary tippy to very stable, we spent more for ones that are very stable.

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    1. I can't even imagine how excellent a motivator a nearby winery would be! What a lovely spot to kayak!! That sounds so perfect.

      I have not fallen off the SUP but I've come close. I have practised getting back on from the water and I have hopped on Hubby's in an effort to sink him, lol. I agree with your son that it's a lot of fun to also just play around with the SUPs.

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  6. Gorgeous pix. I hear SUP is great for your abs-it certainly requires balance. Good for you to persevere.

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  7. So fun! you know your confident in your paddle boarding when you go out with clothes on. We have one of the more fragile ones (can't remember what it's made out of), but man it's still hard to get up on when you get started.

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  8. Your pictures are beautiful of the lake. I am amazed how clear the water is there. We live in Missouri and have a place on Lake of the Ozarks, the water is very choppy most all the time and you can't see anything underneath. We have kayaks and like going out in the early morning and late evening when it's calmer. We had a no wake order one year there on the 4th of July and there were people paddle boarding across the lake because no boats were out. That's something you never see on the lake, much like your eclipse day.

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