'Stand-up paddling: anywhere there's water.”
That's Warren Currie's motto when it comes to trying out stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) in Edmonton. And having tried it everywhere from the City Hall fountain to giant puddles along the freeway after a storm, he's proof it can be done.
Now the fastest growing sport in the world—and not just for water sports—SUP has quickly become one of the most unique and popular sports in Edmonton over the last few years.
Currie is the owner of The Easy Rider and is largely responsible for the current surge in SUP popularity, having brought the sport back with him after a 2006 trip to Hawaii where he tried it for the first time. Since then he's been funnelling his passion for the sport into educating others about the fitness and pure fun of an activity that's actually perfect for Edmonton's flat-water environment.
“[Part of the reason] why the sport is growing worldwide so fast—especially on flat water lakes and calm water as opposed to waves—is because it's easy,” Currie explains. “I can teach anybody to do it properly in under 15 minutes. My mom and dad, who are 73 and 75, do it up at their lake cabin. Anybody can do the sport. Ability wise, as long as you can walk and stand up, you can do it.”
Similar to surfboarding in some ways, SUP requires the rider to balance on a long board while controlling their movement with the use of a kayak-like paddle. Currie provides regular flat-water demos throughout the entire year: at West Edmonton Mall water park during the winter, and at local lakes such as Telford Lake in Leduc and Hermitage Park in the north-east end of Edmonton in the summer. Registrants need only bring a $10 donation for a local charity, and while they're welcome to use their own boards if they have one, Currie is well equipped with his own demo fleet of 30 boards for the public to try.
More experienced riders can also try out Easy Rider's tours of the River Valley and their races, with this year's sixth annual SUP Cup race set to take place on August 24 – 25.
The sport's easy-to-learn nature and increase in popularity has caused other SUP companies to pop up in Edmonton in recent years, including aquatic safety and certification company Waterman 5. Along with classes dedicated to learning how to do SUP, Waterman 5's most popular program is their SUP fitness class, which involves a combination of calisthenics, yoga and plyometrics while on paddleboards in the water. Waterman 5 owner Sean Nickerson credits the thorough and effective nature of the workout as the reason for the class's popularity, which they conduct on Lake Summerside in the summer and in the indoor pool at the Royal Glenora Club in the winter.
“It's very agility-based, it requires a lot of core [and] back muscles. So if you think about it as an entire body or a more holistic approach, it's not just legs, it's not just upper body or just paddling. It really is all about the entire core, which is something that traditionally, people can't get at a regular one-hour workout or anything like that,” Nickerson says.
Lake Summerside is a particularly good spot to try SUP for the first time because while most lakes in Edmonton are storm water management lakes, Summerside was specifically built to provide residents with a recreational space for activities like fishing, swimming and water sports. Nickerson points to the lake's cleaner, warmer water and less turbulent water flow for making it a safe place to learn the basics of the sport.
But if the promise of exercise, competition and fun aren't enough to entice you to try SUP, Currie's pretty sure the sport's cool-factor will.
“I've been in this industry a long time so sometimes I forget, but everybody wants to surf. You see a picture or video of a guy surfing—who doesn't want to do that? I mean, you can see a picture of a guy 20 feet in the air on a dirt bike and go, 'Oh, that's cool, but no, I'll never want to do that.' Whereas a guy surfing, it's like, 'If he falls, it's water. No big deal.' So that's a really big driving factor,” says Currie.
“A lot of people like it not only because is it so easy, but you're also standing on water. I don't want to get all biblical, but it's that walking on water kind of mentality.”