Try Stand Up Paddleboarding in Canmore

We have tips on where to get the gear and what to do once you get on the water.

Paddle boarding on Canmore Reservoir.

Photograph and illustrations by Sarah McMenemy


Stand up paddleboarding is one of those activities that you can pick up pretty easily with a few tips. It's also one of those activities that is made even better on a glacier lake with the Rocky Mountains as your backdrop. Prime spots for paddleboarding in the mountains close to Calgary are Vermilion, Johnson and Two Jack Lakes near Banff. In Canmore, the Canmore and Spray Lakes Reservoirs are calm with good views and a lot of space to paddle.

Also in Canmore is Bow Valley SUP, where you can rent gear or take lessons. In July and August, Bow Valley SUP offers learn to SUP classes on Saturdays and Sundays in Canmore and Thursdays at Two Jack Lake in Banff. You can also take SUP yoga and intro to river SUP classes.

If you want to rent the equipment and give it a try on your own, a full day SUP rental, including the board, paddle, leash and straps to secure it to your vehicle, is $47.25. Three-hour rentals are $30. Bow Valley SUP also has inflatable boards that fit in your truck and come with a pump to inflate. Staff will help you choose the right board for your height (it should be four to seven inches taller than you) and adjust your paddles. 

Park around back to load your gear. When you get back, Bow Valley SUP is right beside Old School Bus Ice Cream. Bring cash for shaved ice or a cone from the Canmore classic when you are done paddling. 

Don’t forget your life jacket. You have to have one on the board or your body at all times. 

Now that you are geared up, here are some tips to keep you moving on the board and out of the chilly water: 


How to stand 

Start with your knees just behind the middle of the board with the paddle on the board in front of you. Place one foot on the board where your knee was. Do the same with your other foot and then stand up. Keep your feet shoulder width apart and your knees slightly bent. 

For balance, keep your eyes on the horizon and not on your feet. If you are in Canmore, take the opportunity to look for hikers summiting the Ha Ling and Rundle peaks. 


How to hold the paddle

The bent part of the paddle should be facing you. Keep your arms mostly straight with a slight bend in your elbow. Most of the work comes from rotating at your torso and hips, so try not to twist your shoulders. Remember, when you are on the water, wear the leash around your ankle so that if you fall off (you probably won't) the board will stay close to you.


How to turn and go straight

The board will turn in the opposite direction of the stroke. Keep paddling on the left and the board will eventually go to the right and vice versa. For quicker turns, back paddle or do a sweep stroke by planting the paddle towards the top of the board and take a long sweeping stroke away from the board and to the tail. The further away the paddle is from the board, the quicker you will turn. 

To go straight, keep the paddle close to your board. Take short strokes, reaching out in front of you and stopping at your feet. Once the paddle goes past your feet, you really aren't moving the water. 


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