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Try Stand Up Paddle Boarding!

Just because it’s Fall and the kids are back in school doesn’t mean you have to say good-bye quite yet to beach days for another year. Living in Calgary, we often get some gorgeous weekends in September and you can still enjoy a lakeside picnic while the kids play in the water. Rent inflatable stand up paddle boards (SUPs) for the family to take with you for a fun day at the beach (you may be inspired to add stand up paddle boards for the family to your Christmas wish list this year, too!).

Five places to try stand up paddle boarding near Calgary:

1. Barrier Lake, Kananaskis. Barrier Lake is located off Hwy 40, approximately 15 minutes away from Kananaskis Village. You can rent inflatable boards from Kananaskis Outfitters located at the Village. For more information, visit Once you have your paddle boards, drive over to the Barrier Lake Day-Use Area where you’ll find picnic tables and a great rocky beach area for the kids to play at.

2. Lower Kananaskis Lake at Peninsula Day-Use Area. Rent SUPs from Kananaskis Outfitters and then keep driving toward Peter Lougheed Provincial Park where you’ll find the Peninsula Day-Use Area with picnic tables scattered along the lakeshore. My family likes to paddle in the protected bay between the Peninsula and Canyon day-use areas. There are sheltered safe practice areas for children to try paddling, as well.

Quarry Lake, Canmore. This is everybody’s favorite mountain beach, and for good reason. The small lake is calm and perfect for learning to stand up paddle. There’s also plenty of space to put down a picnic blanket, and the kids will be able to play in the small rocky pools for hours. While the water is not exactly warm, children never seem to mind. Rent the SUPs in Calgary or in Canmore from Bow Valley SUP. For more information, visit

Johnson Lake, Banff. For beginners, there’s no better place in the mountains to try stand up paddling than on this calm lake near the town of Banff. It is located on the Minnewanka Loop road and children will enjoy playing at the sandy beach. This is Banff’s only beach with real sand and shallow water to play in. There is also a nice hiking trail around the lake where you can look out for a couple of swings (one that allows you to swing into the lake, if you want). To rent SUPs, either pick them up in Calgary (the more affordable option) and transport them out to the mountains or stop by the Banff Canoe Club at their shop along the Bow River in town. For more information, visit To rent in Calgary, call Mountain Equipment COOP where an inflatable SUP package is only $35 per day. (There are two Mountain Equipment COOP locations: downtown or in the south.)

Vermilion Lakes and Echo Creek, Banff. Once you’ve rented your boards and headed out to Banff, you can also park along Vermilion Lakes Road and launch your SUPs in any of the three Vermilion Lakes. I prefer the first lake because there’s a small channel that connects this lake to a creek that leads you into the town of Banff. By paddling down Echo Creek, you can reach the Banff Canoe Club docks on the Bow River (you can even paddle up the river for a short distance). This isn’t a great picnic option, but it’s great for families with teenagers who want to rent several inflatable boards to head out on the water together.

Special safety precautions for beginners:

  • Consider taking a lesson from one of the fabulous companies in Calgary or in the Bow Valley.

  • Rent a wetsuit with your board or try paddling on a very warm day first. It’s also advised that you stay close to shore until you have your balance mastered.

  • A head wind is not your friend on a board. Pay attention to the wind, if you find yourself being blown down a lake. It will be twice the effort to get back to your starting point.

  • Always wear a PFD (Personal Flotation Device) and carry a whistle in case you get in trouble and need to call for help.

  • Paddle with a friend or a family member; there’s safety in numbers.

  • Dress as if you were going to fall in the water. This should include a bathing suit with either a wetsuit or else quick dry pants and a swim shirt overtop. I’m also partial to wearing a rain jacket on cool days or during the evenings.

  • Wear sandals or water shoes with a protective bottom for rocks that you’ll likely step on while getting on or off your board. And think athletic sandals rather than flip-flops. Many paddlers like to go barefoot, but this is only recommended when you are starting from a sandy beach.

  • Don’t take anything on your board that can’t get wet (think keys, phones, cameras). Either bring a dry bag for your valuables (and attach it to the bungees on your board) or lock everything safely in your car.

Tanya is a freelance writer and mom to a spunky boy. She loves hiking, camping, skiing, and all things mountain-related. She is the author of the blog, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies,


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