If you’ve been to any of North Simcoe’s waterside areas in the past decade, you may have seen stand-up paddleboarding transform from a mere curiosity into an accepted commonality.
“This sport is a fantastic sport; it belongs here,” says Steve Priske, co-owner of Georgian Bay SUP.
Raised in Kelowna, BC, Priske moved to Midland in 2012 with a friend only to learn that many niche attractions didn’t exist in the area.
“We lamented about things that aren’t in Ontario that we had available to us in British Columbia,” Priske says of introducing stand-up paddleboarding to the area.
“Figuring out that we could actually paddlesurf here was a huge motivator for us getting into this. And instead of lamenting what’s not here, we decided to create what’s not here. When we were out in 2012, people were wondering what we were doing.”
Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) has origins going back to ancient times throughout global cultures. The common theme is that a rider will stand upon a floating device slightly bigger than a surfboard while using a single-sided paddle for mobility.
“When I got into the sport, one of the first things I was told was that your paddle’s probably more important than your board,” Priske explains.
“Handing a carbon paddle to someone and they say ‘Oh my god, that’s so light!’ And you think about it… that’s your tool. If you’re going any distances on a paddleboard, you don’t want to have a heavy paddle. It’s going to fatigue you more.
“That’s what I love about the sport. SUP is a full-body workout, and you wouldn’t really think it’d be doing your legs at all… but when you’re doing long distance— when you’re doing the paddle stroke correctly— you’re digging and doing half-squats the entire time as you’re paddling. Just standing on a board on water, you’ve engaged your core.”
A certified instructor, Priske is known to do 10-to-20 kilometre distances for fun and cites his round-trip completion around Chimnissing (Christian, Hope and Beckwith islands) as a personal highlight.
He cautions that his regiment qualifies as advanced however, and that while novices are more likely to do three kilometres or so, beginners should just stick to the basics by getting comfortable with the strokes and the board and knowing all the safety rules before planning any kind of distance paddle.
“That’s very important,” Priske notes. “I would caution anybody who would want to do that, to make sure that they have a very good understanding of the waterways and all the things that Transport Canada wants us to have in our arsenal when we’re out in the water.”
Minimum safety equipment requirements for SUP are listed in Transport Canada’s Safe Boating Guide found here.
“Over the years now, I think that there are so many well-established paddle companies around such as Mountain Equipment Co-op; on Amazon you can buy full kits on there now for really reasonable prices, but it’s really like any other sport; you get what you pay for.”
Georgian Bay SUP has been in business since 2013 and continues to promote the nature of this area for locals and visitors alike.
“We were proud to represent Ontario back at the biggest SUP race on the East coast in 2015 (the Carolina Cup),” company co-owner Scott Campbell says.
“But most of all, we’re happy to get boards to the people, and expose them to some physical fitness as well as a new perspective and appreciation of the beauty of the waterways in-and-around Midland, Penetanguishene, Tiny and Tay.”
Priske says it’s also important to support local groups like the environmental-charity Georgian Bay Forever and/or the not-for-profit Georgian Bay Land Trust.
“These are organizations that are trying to preserve the Great Lakes and all the things that are threatening the Great Lakes at this time,” he says. “Last year, I was even encouraging people to paddle around for change and the change was to be a more conscientious consumer.”