SUPing or 'stand up paddleboarding' is the latest, and many say the greatest, watersport to come along in ages. It's an activity that's easy to learn, isn't costly and requires minimal equipment. If you have access to water, you can do it. Or, as the pros like to say, "if you can walk, you can SUP." Plus, it provides a full body workout and is guaranteed to improve your balance, tighten your core and soothe your soul. What's not to like about that?
Every decade or so a new sport comes along that involves being on water. In the 1970s windsurfing was the hot new activity, a fun if challenging sport that involved both a sail and a surfboard. When that became less popular, something even more difficult took its place: kitesurfing, which allowed boarders to take off across the waves at lightning speed, propelled by the wind and a large controllable power kite. But both these watersports required the perfect wind conditions, an ideal waterfront setting, consistent waves and a good deal of strength and athleticism. The time had come for a water board sport that was easier, more user-friendly and could take place in flat water on windless days. Meeting all these criteria, the hugely popular 'stand-up paddleboard' has become the best new thing in watersports.
HOW IT STARTED
It was in the early 2000s in Hawaii that SUPing first made an appearance as an off-shoot of surfing. It caught on there because it allowed surfers to paddle out and get a better view of the incoming swells, and therefore catch more waves in a set. It wasn't until several years later that the sport began taking off in other regions. Here in the Georgian Bay area, it is one of the fastest growing summer activities on the water. And because we have a choice of rivers as well as the long, extended shoreline of Georgian Bay, there are plenty of places to slide a board into the water.
"It's a sport that you can catch onto quickly," notes Jennie Elmslie of Free Spirit Tours; "it's really fun right from the get-go." Her company offers SUP boarding tours and lessons on the Nottawasaga River, the Beaver River and at Wasaga Beach. "This summer we have our SUP guru Tim Sproll giving lessons at Beach 3 in Wasaga," adds Elmslie, "and it is the perfect place to learn."
Sproll agrees, enthusing, "Wasaga Beach is like paradise for SUPing." The water at the beach is clean and clear, and because it's shallow for such a long way out it's easy to learn there. If you fall off you're still only up to your waist and yet you can get far enough out to be away from the swimmers and waders. Also the view of the Escarpment is breathtaking from that vantage point. According to Sproll it takes most people just an hour or two to master the basics (he offers an 1-1/2 hour introduction class) and then you can paddle off on your own or join in the social paddles that take place all along the waterfront in the summer.
Sproll's interest in the sport began in 2007 when he first saw someone on a board in Australia and wondered then "why is this guy standing on his surfboard and paddling?" A few years later he tried SUPing in Toronto and has been passionate about it ever since, even taking part in a charity event on Lake Ontario where he paddled 18 kilometres from Bluffer's Beach in Toronto to Frenchman's Bay in Pickering. He has now moved to Wasaga Beach to become more involved in the sport. "I've always had an affinity for anything in or on water," he says, "and SUPing in this area offers the best of all worlds."