Stand Up Paddle Boarding in the Rocky Mountains

This past month, during our annual family vacation in Invermere, British Columbia, my sister-in-law brought up the idea of trying our hands at stand up paddle boarding.  I had always wanted to test myself on a stand up paddle board - I am not the most graceful person - and I jumped at the chance to go with her.  So did my husband and brother-in-law.

British Columbia activities, Rocky Mountain water sports, Syndicate Boardshop
Trying out stand up paddle boarding in the Rocky Mountains, and loving it!

Unfortunately, our week in Invermere turned out to be quite rainy and cloudy.  Patches of sunlight filtered through the clouds sporadically during the daytime, but ultimately, we didn't get any really good beach days until our last day of vacation.  Not to be swayed, we took advantage of that one good day and rented our stand up paddle boards bright and early.

There are a couple of places to rent paddle boarding equipment in Invermere.  We first checked out Columbia River Outfitters, a favorite of ours for renting kayaks and canoes.  However, the prices at Syndicate Boardshop were slightly cheaper, and since Syndicate is closer to the downtown area of Invermere, we chose this as our place of business.  We spent $40 per paddle board for a 24-hour rental, where Columbia River Outfitters charges $50 (not a big difference, I know, but still...)

SUP rentals Invermere, SUP tips and tricks, stand up paddle boarding guide
Cautiously paddling around Lake Windermere on my rented stand up paddle board.

The guy behind the counter at Syndicate convinced us to rent two different types of paddle boards - a traditional SUP and an inflatable one.  My sister-in-law was considering purchasing her own board, so she was glad for the chance to test both out.  The inflatable ones are much more affordable to buy than the traditional SUPs, although there are distinct differences between the two and how they maneuver.

I was pretty nervous for my first round out on the boards - not because I was scared of getting hurt, but mainly because I'm a very competitive person and I wanted to be perfect on my first go-round.  (Yes, this is something I am working on - you might call it a 'character flaw' but at least I'm aware of it!)  I didn't want to be that person who continually fell off the board in front of the whole beach, but I was soon to learn that basically everyone becomes that person on their first try with stand up paddle boarding.  There's no shame.  At least you are out there trying something new.

SUP fail, falling off a SUP, SUP tips and tricks, how to fall off a stand up paddle board
Oh, we had some fantastic wipe-outs on our stand up paddle boards!

My husband and sister-in-law were the first two to attempt stand up paddle boarding.  We had only rented two boards, since we weren't sure if everyone was going to like it.  Needless to say, next year we will be renting one for everyone who wants to go.  My husband fell a few times, but soon got the hang of paddle boarding.  My sister-in-law took a little more time to get her 'sea legs', and had a few splashy falls, but soon was zipping around Lake Windermere with confidence.  I sat on the beach, playing with my baby, and studying their every move intently.

Then it was my turn. I looked like Bambi trying to walk for the first time as I wobbled and bobbled on the board, bending my knees, placing my feet centrally on the board and spaced about shoulder-width apart.  I went slow and steady at first, learning how to use my abs, quads, and hamstrings to keep me stable.  My toes actually started to ache until I realized I was curling them into the board for grip, like some kind of monkey!  I paddled so gently my husband said it looked like I was 'petting the lake' with the paddle.

But slow and steady wins the race: I didn't fall once during my time out on the lake, and I was out for awhile.  Eventually I became more confident, stood a little straighter, paddled a little more aggressively, and learned to cut sharp turns.  The most difficult aspect of stand up paddle boarding was when motorboats and jet skis came a little too close to the swimmer's area, and caused big waves to come crashing through.  ("Big" being subjective - I found them big.  Surfers would not.) I found it easier to meet the waves head-on rather than paddle boarding against them horizontally.

how to use a stand up paddle board, SUP tips and tricks
Sitting and floating peacefully on the stand up paddle board is also fun.

My favorite part of SUP was getting down and sitting on the paddle board, way out in the middle of the water, and enjoying the lake and mountain vista peacefully.  Some people were lying on their paddle boards suntanning.  My sister-in-law told me of classes you can take where people do yoga on their paddle boards.  I was just happy to sit and float.

If I were to purchase my own stand up paddle board, I would have to say that I enjoyed the traditional board much more.  They are made of a thick, study foam, are much wider, and are less prone to tipping wildly when encountering oncoming waves.  The inflatable ones are narrower, bouncier, and harder to keep stable.  However, the inflatable ones do go faster and maneuver with ease, once you get the hang of it.  Since I was more into staying dry and not falling off the board repeatedly, I preferred the foam board.  My husband, who was a speed demon on the SUP, wants to buy an inflatable.  To each their own!

foam vs inflatable stand up paddle board, inflatable SUP, paddle boarding in Invermere
My husband loved his inflatable stand up paddle board.

For those of you wanting to try stand up paddle boarding but are a little nervous, heed my advice - just do it! Learning how to paddle board isn't that difficult, and although you may fall spectacularly a few times, you'll end up enjoying yourself.  If you are renting, rent for the whole day and not just two hours (which is a common time frame from SUP rental facilities).  Two hours will not allow you the time you need to learn, do, and then enjoy.

For anyone reading who is a stand up paddle board expert, let me know if I have missed any tips or tricks that you can share.  I'm sure others will appreciate your wisdom!


  1. How fun. I love/dread the idea of trying new things on trips! On our honeymoon in Quebec City we went dog sledding. At first it was terrifying.. and then it was fun... but still a little terrifying. :) I was hoping for a chance to go river rafting last summer in Colorado, but our family changed the trip.. so alas, I will have to wait for another turn and tell myself that it is rewarding to do new things even if they seem scary at first. :) I have always wanted to try paddle boarding, so perhaps on one of our next trips! :) Thanks for the reminder to be brave! XO -Alexandra (I am nearly done with my site redesign, what do you think?)

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

    1. Oh, you absolutely have to try white water rafting - it is so exhilarating! As long as you listen to the guide, you'll be fine. I'm jealous that you got to go dog sledding. How fun! How long did you go for? Where did you go? I'm going to go check out your 'new' blog right now. :)

  2. Thanks for the shoutout! Glad you had fun and hope to see you again!

    Andrew, Syndicate

    1. We'll be back in a couple months and hope to rent again. :)

  3. Cool blog! I found this blog very useful; have learned lots of thing here. Paddle Boards HQ

    1. I'm glad you enjoy the blog. The main reason I write it (other than for myself so when I'm old I can remember some of the fun things I've done) is to help others plan their adventures. I'm happy that you found it helpful.