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Get Up, Stand Up!

Lead Photo by Damien Gilbert

Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) in Thunder Bay



What’s SUP Thunder Bay?!

Stand up paddleboarding (SUP) is as close as you can get to walking on water, and now you can book a rental/lesson combo through a Thunder Bay company. Run by friends and business partners Jaakko Natri (of Natribros Surf & SUP) and Niall Beatty (a personal trainer), SUPerior Stand Up Paddleboarding has been offering Thunder Bay-area lessons and rentals since spring 2016.

Most people who try it are utterly hooked. “It’s great exercise and a great way to get out into nature,” says Natri, who added SUPing to his longtime surf expertise about eight years ago. Beatty agrees: “I’d rather be out on the water than in the gym,” he says, adding that he bought his first board five years ago just before he was deployed to Afghanistan as part of the armed forces. “You leave all your stress behind when you’re out paddleboarding.”

The sport has grown hugely in the last 10 years or so, but in case you haven’t had a chance to see someone SUPing at a lake or resort, here’s how it works. A SUP is like a wide, stable surfboard—the beginner boards that SUPerior has are a comfy three feet wide, although they also have narrower, sleeker racing models. You put on your lifejacket, Velcro a “leash” around your ankle (so you don’t become separated from the board if you do happen to fall off) and pick up the paddle, which is much like a canoe paddle, only with a longer shaft. Then you put the board in the water, step on and hey—you get a brand new view of your favourite lake or river. If you know how to canoe, you’ve got the strokes you need to manoeuvre the board. And if you don’t know how to paddle, Natri and Beatty are certified SUP instructors and will help you pick up the basics in no time flat.

SUPerior has up to 15 boards available for rent. If you just want the board, it’s $40/day. If you’d like a 1- to 1.5-hour lesson, it’s $30 per person for a two-person group or $25 per person for three people, board included. Private and group lessons are also available. During a lesson, you learn how to stand on the board, how to properly size your paddle, how to hold your paddle and how to perform the basic strokes. Bare feet or water shoes work best.

Where do you SUP in TBay? Lots of places! The main locations are Boulevard Lake, Hazelwood Lake Conservation Area, the Kam River and Prince Arthur’s Landing, although if you have a camp on one of the local lakes, you can book your lesson there. (For example, Beatty recently gave a group lesson at a birthday party at Surprise Lake.)

SUPerior also offers SUP yoga and fitness—that’s right, Warrior One or burpees on the board. And if you’d rather keep both feet on the board, thank you very much, SUP is still an excellent workout that improves your balance and works your upper body, legs and especially your core, all without being hard on the joints. Bonus: it doesn’t feel like a workout, as you chat with a friend as you glide over the water, or sneak up on some aquatic wildlife.

“People just love it when they try it,” says Natri. “It’s a totally versatile sport.” Beatty agrees. “We’ve had six-year-olds and 70-year-olds, and everyone in between,” he says. Give it a try—SUP is an awesome new way to have fun on the water and discover or rediscover Thunder Bay.

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