I live in an area surrounded by water. Niagara is bounded by two of the Great Lakes and crisscrossed with waterways that are like veins connecting them. What I have lacked since moving down here was a means to enjoy all this water (beyond aesthetically.) Bring on stand up paddling, or SUP. I’ve seen this sport grow in popularity, and finally got a chance to try it out for myself. I connected with Tim Bala, a Niagara on the Lake local who started up his own business called Paddle Niagara 3 years ago.
I booked a 1hr lesson with Tim, and we met up in Niagara on the Lake for an evening on the water. Conditions were perfect – one of the hottest days this summer, calm water, and just a bit of offshore wind. Paddle Niagara provided everything that I needed – board, paddle, PFD, and instructions. We started on shore to get an understanding of the board, the paddle, and the stroke. We talked about how to carry the board, how to put it in water, and how to get on (and stay on!) SUP looks like a pretty simple sport with basic equipment, but it is definitely one of those activities where learning some key basics will make for a much better experience. After our lesson on the beach, we were into Lake Ontario.
In the water we executed the how to get on the board theory (which was easier than I expected) and then how to get from kneeling to standing. With some good techniques from Tim, this was actually pretty smooth! Tim dispelled some major things that I would have assumed was the right way to get the board moving (for example, which way the blade angle goes in the water!) I learned about efficient technique, turning, and a bunch of little things to focus on. The private lesson was great because Tim could keep an eye on me and let me know what I could adjust or do differently right away. We had a great paddle along the shoreline and back to the beach with enough time to work on technique and try different things and get a feel for the board. I was struck by how de-stressing and relaxing this sport could be. Its a good workout, but no impact. I could tell it was working a million little muscles in my body as I maintained my balance. You can work hard and build up a sweat, or just cruise and enjoy the peacefulness.
After the lesson I stuck around for one of Paddle Niagara’s Socials for Locals nights. Paddle Niagara does this on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings where you get all the gear for an hour and a half for $25. We had a good sized group out and paddled up and back along the shoreline with an amazing sunset as our backdrop.
Paddle Niagara is like the food truck of the SUP industry. If you want to get out on the water, gather some friends and Tim will make it happen. He’s got the boards, the skills, and the infectious enthusiasm for the sport. I noticed a few times that Tim had a random piece of garbage on his board – anytime he saw some debris floating in the water, he would paddle over to grab it and bring it back to shore. He has been on this water his whole life, and it is obvious how much he treasures it. Hook up for a lesson, one of the scheduled paddling nights, or gather a group and let Tim get you out there. You’ll never look back! Check out the Paddle Niagara website here or call/text (905)401-SUPZ.