If you’re looking for a moment of calm on the buzzing, busy summer waters of Lake Windermere, a paddleboard could well be your ticket to bliss. The sheer number of motorboats, waterskiers and jet skiers zipping around the lake on any given summer weekend can be overwhelming. But at the right time of day — or in the right spots — you can escape the motorized activity and enjoy nothing more than the sound or your paddle dipping in the water and the waves lapping your board.
Stand-up paddleboarding is a relatively new sport, the roots of which go back not much more than 50 years, when surfing instructors in Hawaii used stand-up paddling techniques to help them photograph students. Competitive surfers then adopted those techniques for training purposes.
However, the offshoot sport remained obscure for decades and has only really taken off in the last decade. The first production stand-up paddleboards hit the market in 2006 and the first shop dedicated to stand-up paddleboarding only opened in 2007, in California.
Since then, the sport has exploded in popularity, with people taking their boards not just in the surf, but on lakes and rivers (both calm and running rapids or surfing standing waves) or what stand-up paddleboarders call gliding — long distance trips along sea, ocean or big lake coasts, often planned so that winds and current add to the boarders’ momentum.
Part of the reason for the sport’s rapid spread is the ease with which pretty much anybody can learn the sport. You simply, as the name of the sport suggests, stand on the board and paddle. The Columbia Valley, filled as it is with wetlands, lakes and rivers, is a veritable stand-up paddleboarder’s paradise. If you want to head out on the iconic Lake Windermere, but avoid the hullabaloo, just go early in the morning. There’ll be much less traffic, the waters and wind will be much calmer, and it’ll be that much easier to soak in those glorious from-the-water views of the mountains rising up on both sides of the lake.
There are a host of smaller lakes dotted around the valley if Lake Windermere is not your thing, many of them tucked away, secluded and great for paddleboarding. But perhaps the best option is to pop the board in the water by Pete’s Marina and paddleboard your way north down the river and through the world-famous Columbia Valley wetlands, ending up in Radium. You’ll need to arrange a car shuttle or paddle back, but the effort is well worth it. There are many interesting parts of the wetlands to explore on the way and great wildlife spotting opportunities.
You can rent paddleboards at Columbia River Kayak and Canoe or Syndicate Boardshop (both in Athalmer). Columbia River Kayak and Canoe offers a shuttle pickup for those wanting do the paddle to Radium.