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Stand Up Paddle Surfing

story Alexander Howes  photography Steve Uhraney

You’ve most likely seen them, paddlers standing on surfboards using a long paddle to propel them through the water. You can often spot them cresting waves on Mississauga’s shoreline or enjoying a serene paddle on the Credit River.

The sight of a person seemingly standing on water often bewilders onlookers at first and then piques their curiosity. Shutterbugs are quick to capture what they are witnessing and bystanders become very inquisitive when these surfers take to the beach.

For those unfamiliar with this activity that it is now making waves, you will be surprised that the sport has a rich history dating back several decades.

From a landlubbers perspective, there seems to be a serenity to it. A Zen moment occurs with paddle, board, lake, escaping the city’s clutches, leaving behind deadlines and commitments, skimming the lake and shedding a few calories in the process.

From its origins in Hawaii, stand up paddling – or as it’s known in Hawaiian culture Hoe he’e nalu – began in the early 1960s, when surf culture on the west coast was gaining popularity.

Waikiki Beach instructors began to use the stand up variation to keep an eye on their surfing students. SUPing shares the same qualities and values of its originating homeland: relaxed vibes, shared comradeship, and a general appreciation for the sport.

Beginners may be intimidated from afar, but SUP has proven to be one of the most accessible sports for the novice athlete. With the assistance of the paddle and the large size of the surfboard, SUP is an easier sport to pick up than traditional surfing.

“I think that people like the accessibility. Anybody can do it,” says Doug Tutty, a local paddler and long-time canoe and kayak coach. “People also love the challenge of staying up on the board first of all and then working their way through the learning curve. With time on the water, improvement is inevitable and people then work their way into more challenging water conditions.”

SUP’s benefits are countless. First and foremost, SUPing can be done on virtually any safe body of water. Best of all, average surf waves are not required. With a paddle to balance, propel and steer, stand up paddlers can take on oceans, lakes and rivers, without even getting wet.

SUPing shares characteristics of other paddle sports like canoeing or kayaking. For the more adventurous, stand up paddlers can compete in long distance races in numerous competitions throughout Canada. However many may find the activity as relaxing as a cottage-country canoe trip.

Cottage-goers have picked up on the activity using SUP boards as a method of transportation to get from cottage to cottage as a healthy alternative to boating.

People all across Canada and right in Mississauga are finding ways to get on the water and try stand up paddling anyway they can. Luckily there are many programs out there that offer lessons to anyone from beginner to professional and everyone in between.
– (Standup Paddling Toronto) runs lessons out of the GTA anywhere close to an adequate size body of water. From the banks of the Credit River to the shores of Lake Ontario can arrange to meet at a convenient location or wherever the instructors may suggest.

“People say it’s like walking on water, but it’s more than that,” says Mike, an instructor with Mike, who has been stand up paddling for over five years, picked up on the sport immediately, and in 2011 began teaching clients privately on the shores of Lake Ontario.

“When you can paddle into the middle of a lake, lay down on your board, let the sun beam, and hang your feet over the side, it’s euphoric,” he says.

That may be the easy part, but for those looking for more of a thrill or a high-demand workout, SUP enthusiasts can easily seek out larger swells, depending on the conditions and location.

When it comes to these bigger waves, SUP proves to hold its own against the kind of surfing many are used to seeing. The difference is there is much more control when you surf paddle in hand.

At this stage of the game, SUP is still a relatively growing sport. Although there are no regular paddle groups in Mississauga, there are a number of businesses that rent equipment to beginners. However as more people pick up on its ease and fun, you may soon see many more paddlers along the beaches and shores of major cities, cottage lakes, and oceans everywhere.

Where to learn:

Where to buy:
Dav Nemethy-Fekete at

Great paddle surfing videos:

SUP equipment for the shoot provided by “404” and Models Kelly Pong (top left) from Dr. Simon Pong Dental, Oakville and Jennifer Cramer from &Company Resto Bar Mississauga. Instructor Mike Howes, Mississauga of


Mike Howes gives a beginner SUP lesson to Kelly Pong and
Jennifer Cramer at Jack Darling Park beach.
Mike is an instructor at

Mike Howes
Mike Howes demonstrates how it's done.

Riding a lake wave
Photo by Julie Skeoch

Boards on the beach. The sport takes its origins from Hawaii,
where it is known as Hoe he’e nalu

Mike Kelly & Jennifer
Kelly (left) and Jennifer (right) prepare to go out on the lake with Mike

Mike Howes and Dav Fekete
Mike (foreground) and Dav (background) carry poles
to the lessson