As a SUP paddler, instructor and guide who focuses on Surf, Ocean and Rivers, I was very excited about the idea of bringing paddlers together in a “camp setting” to develop a variety of skills for each SUP discipline. This instructional model has worked for other paddling disciplines but was not yet available for the stand-up paddle board community here in Western Canada. Our first camp this year was our SOAR River Camp which included a two day Paddle Canada River Instructor Course. It was a big success and our group enjoyed a focused week together on the river.
I was fortunate to work with two Kokatat outfitters, Chad Guenter of Raven Rescue (Smithers, BC) and Neil Gilson of BearFoot Performance Paddling (Canmore, AB) to deliver a week of river rescue and whitewater skill development here in Squamish, B.C. We applied our safety and technical skill sets on three local rivers, the Squamish, Mamquam and Cheakamus with everyone growing in leaps and bounds as they built their self-confidence and paddling skills. Given the time of year, early April, we had the perfect opportunity to educate our clients on the importance of immersion gear from a safety and comfort perspective.
Quadra Island, located on the east side of Vancouver Island was the perfect location for our next camp, our SOAR Ocean Camp. We based out of Discovery Island Lodge, a comfortable and cozy base camp for three nights where we explored local waters ways while working on paddling skills in tidal currents, navigation, group travel and decision making.
The highlight of the area was Surge Narrows Provincial Park. With its high tidal changes and many reefs and islands, this park has ideal conditions for marine life. Sea urchins, sea cucumbers, sea stars, anemones, Harbour seals and sea lions all flourish in these prime conditions. The area hosts large numbers of Bald Eagles and First Nation’s pictographs can be seen on the local rock walls.
Our last evening of the camp was an overnighter to a scenic campsite located on the shores of the Pacific Ocean and under the canopy of the lush temperate rainforest. The clients had the opportunity to learn some of the finer skills of sup touring, packing up their touring boards and travelling with a fully loaded board. Our final night of the camp was spent reflecting on the week and sharing stories under a setting sun and over the warm glow of a fire. Everyone loved the area and we will be back to Discovery Island Lodge and Quadra Island for next year’s ocean camp.
Our goal is to have our SOAR Surf Camp this fall in Tofino, B.C. to complete our trifecta of camps. For now we have been happy with the success of our first two Ocean and River Camps. For more information on our camps, multi day expeditions and training courses visit our website at normhann.com