Hubby and I each splurged on a stand up paddle board this year and it is my favorite lakehouse purchase to date! Today I’m sharing the funny story of why we bought them, our first adventures stand up paddle boarding on Lake Superior, and my advice for what kind of stand up paddle board and equipment to buy as a beginner.
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 finally 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, eh?” 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!
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.
So far, no gold – just a lot of tires.
Choosing the Right Stand Up Paddle Board
Choosing a stand up 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 our stand up paddle board 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 stand up paddle board 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.
The $799 price tag was a bit pricier than the Pelican stand up paddle board 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!
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 🙂
Hubby picked out a black and white board. I quite obviously picked out his turquoise swim trunks.
Like so many hobbies, the cost of this one definitely added up pretty quickly.
In addition to two stand up paddle 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 stand up paddle board 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.
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?