Take a New Sport to the Lake This Summer
It’s time to break free and feel the summer breeze. Load up the cooler, strap a paddleboard to the car roof, and head for the water. There are plenty of new experiences to be had, and open water in every shape and size throughout Watershed country is your passport to freedom.
Look out onto our lakes and rivers this summer and you’ll see not only swimming, canoeing and water skiing, you’ll see new ways to push the watersport envelope that are challenging and just plain fun. Recently some of the devotees of this new wave got together and gave us their take on why they do it, and why they love it.
We asked some local water adventurers to tell us about today’s extreme watersports landscape, how it looks for both amateurs and pros, and why for many it can offer thrills found nowhere else. But first, let’s take a look at some of these sports.
Kiteboarding/kitesurfing | The wind pulls you along the surface of the water on your kiteboard as you hang onto a large kite in the air ahead of you. As you get more experience, you can try jumps and even somersaults.
Wakeboarding/wakesurfing | It’s like surfing on your own private wave. A combination of water skiing, snowboarding and surfing, in this sport a boat pulls you through the water as you surf over and around the motor’s wake. Experts can try specialized jumps and other stunts.
SUP-surfing | This is an offshoot of paddle-boarding on a smooth lake or river, but in SUP-surfing you catch a wave, ride down it, and let it carry you and your stand-up paddleboard into shore. It goes without saying that safety wear and equipment are essential in all these challenging sports.
GETTING THEIR FEET WET
ANDREW BANDLER, Portfolio Manager Kiteboarding Enthusiast
I took my first lessons on the island of St. Lucia, in the warm waters of the Caribbean. Prior to the pandemic, our family had been travelling annually to Cape Hatteras in North Carolina which is also an amazing place to go kiteboarding.
KATHRYN HRENYK, Server, Bartender, Student
I started in the County on West Lake. Ben Chalmers got me into it and had the great patience to teach me the basics. After that, I took a trip to North Carolina, where I took further lessons to better my skills.
ANDREW REDDEN, Economic & Tourism Development Manager
In 2011, a friend loaned me a trainer kite and gave me an introductory lesson at Jane Forrester Park. I was hooked and kept practicing flying the kite on my own. [A year later] I was told to go to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina for a week and booked lessons from Captain Ty Luckett. That ended up being the best advice and I persevered at local beaches. Nine years later I still love it.
BEN CHALMERS,* Owner Westlake Wakeboard School*
I love water sports – wakeboarding, kiting, wakesurfing, surfing – the list goes on and on! I was a competitive wakeboarder in my teens and twenties until an injury put a fast end to that. But I spent my winters in Australia to try my luck on the wakeboard tour and that’s where I fell in love with surfing, my main focus now in life.
DAVID MILLER, Actor
I learned to surf in Halifax in uni, then while backpacking in Costa Rica upon graduation.
DAMIEN LOURENS, Director. Flou Inc.
I grew up surfing on the Indian Ocean. My father dropped me off on the beach with my brothers when I was very young and asked the lifeguard to keep an eye on us. Things were very different in those days.
WHY THEY LOVE IT
KATHRYN: What’s not to love about this sport of kiteboarding? It’s challenging, it’s thrilling and it’s sooo much fun! I’ve met many friends through this lifelong activity – not only locally, but in different countries I’ve visited specifically to kite.
ANDREW R: I love kiteboarding because it’s a therapeutic way to get away from the smartphones and hustle and bustle of everyday life. It’s a great way to be active and fit and all you need really is a kite (that packs up into a backpack), a board and a harness and you can literally go anywhere in the world with your gear and kiteboard. It’s also a thrill to ride on the water, which is much like wakeboarding, except you’re riding under a fighter jet that’s attached to you, and you get to steer it.
DAVID: I love anything that is a challenge mentally or physically and this is both. Plus, I thrive in the water.
ANDREW B: I used to be an avid water skier, but ever since I leaned to kiteboard, I realized the sport is so much better in so many ways. Using only the power of the wind you can surf waves, carve sharp turns, boost high into the air, and spend hours out on the water with your friends kiting alongside. There’s also a travel element to the sport, locally and internationally – to find new beaches where the wind and the waves combine for the perfect setup. It’s really a lifestyle.
BEN: It’s a feeling that’s hard to describe – whether landing your first jump or flip on a wakeboard or catching your first wave on a surfboard. Those who get it or seek that feeling understand it, it’s a hard one to put on paper. Lately, the part I love the most is seeing that look on a student’s face when that feeling hits them. There’s a wave of energy that comes over their body and they’re hooked forever.
DAMIEN: Being out there, on water. The weather, wind, the waves. It’s not just about the activity, it’s about the experience. When you get into the flow and the rhythm of the lake, it’s so still. The world slows down around you, it’s the best feeling.
THE GREAT MOMENTS
ANDREW R: The time when I first got up on the board and was riding along the water pulled by a kite – it’s such a thrill to experience that feeling! Then when I finally figured out how to do a 360 back roll and land it properly. There are endless tricks to try and learn and that’s what keeps it so engaging because there’s always something new to try, the sport is constantly evolving.
ANDREW B: I have experienced many great moments kiting – many of them travelling to kite destinations with friends and family. I also have very memorable experiences kitesurfing on our local beach in this area. We’re so lucky to have such beautiful beaches and great wind conditions in Watershed country!
DAVID: Those best moments are the ones at sunset or sunrise, where it’s just you and your board looking out onto a horizon that never ends. It’s food for the soul.
“Using only the power of the wind you can surf waves, carve sharp turns, boost high into the air, and spend hours out on the water with your friends kiting alongside.”
KATHRYN: My first crash, kiteboarding in Turks & Caicos, kiteboarding in Panama and the first time getting air… and then crashing hard.
BEN: My most memorable moments were winning the Australian Wakeboard Tour, two years in a row.
DAMIEN: Surfing with the dolphins and the hurricane swells in South Africa and also late into the evening on the lake where I live in Cobourg. The sun goes down and the stars come out and sometimes, you can still get a little bit of luck. At the end of a summer, surfing is such a small, sweet sport – but if the season ends and you wanna keep surfing, get some warm gear and keep it going into the winter.
ADVICE FOR NEWBIES
ANDREW R: Take lessons! If you don’t, you risk injury to yourself and those around you. Find a good instructor who can help with the basics and self-rescue techniques. Also, when visiting a kiteboarding location for the first time, always follow the posted rules and introduce yourself to one of the kiteboarders on scene setting up. They can provide you with information and advice on the location, including hazards to watch out for, and even help you with advice to help your progression.
DAVID: My advice is to have fun and know that you have as much right to be out there as anyone else if you’re just civil and smart. A pro once told me “If you drive then you’re a driver,” so if you surf – even just once – then you’re a surfer.
DAMIEN: YouTube the surf etiquette or sit on the beach and watch for a while. Get an understanding of priorities (first choice of waves) and how to not sit in a take-off zone or you could end up with stitches!
KATHRYN: Never underestimate the wind and keep your arms out!
EXTREME WATER REGION
KATHRYN: Along with kiting, I love SeaDoo-ing the snake run on West Lake, wakesurfing with Ben Chalmers and all of his amazing crew at Westlake Wakeboard School and taking a beautiful stand-up paddleboard ride along the beach to Wellington. We’re super lucky to live in a place where all these sports and more are possible.
DAMIEN: Bart at Green Canoe has awesome gear and advice from paddleboat to SUP. He’s always happy to chat to newbies and guide them into the sports.
BEN: I was taught by my father right here on West Lake in PEC as a small child, first learning to waterski between his legs at around five years old. Since opening the Westlake Wakeboard School, 21 years ago, some of our teaching techniques have changed, but the fundamentals he taught me are still used by my staff and me with kids as young as three all the way up to eighty.
ANDREW R: We are so fortunate to have outstanding lakes and beaches right here in our backyard to enjoy all sorts of watersports. Right after work or on the weekends when it’s windy, I can head to the lake, set up my gear and have a blast. People travel all over the world looking for places like the ones we have right here in our region.