"I called the crew, Aleasha, Andre, and their rad boys, Ashley, and Amanda. We loaded up our rigs, our convoy crew, and started the smooth drive to Elkwater, Alberta with curiosity, paddle gear, fishing gear, and some bikes,” says Reta. “We had no expectations, except to take in adventure and drink some quality coffee and beer.”
A beautiful drive through the rolling prairie hills, farm lands, and windmills, they dropped into Elkwater in Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, with beautiful lakes, massive trees, and comfortable camping. With the peace and quiet they’ve been dreaming of, as Reta described, they unhooked and moved in to relax for the evening.
Having large trees between sites made it feel they were alone with nature. The adults unpacked and relaxed, while the two high-energy, teenage brothers biked laps on the jump trail just behind their campsite. A peaceful state as they settled in and planned for their adventure for the morning.
Day one started with loading up the stand up paddle boards (SUP’s), rafts, and tubes, with a breakfast stop at 12-34 Cafe & Pub. “Their selection was amazing. I ordered my go to cafe mocha with a brownie. Amanda loved the breakfast pizza, describing the crust as a garlicky bite of fluffy heaven and even took a second slice for the road. With caffeine and food, the crew was ready to roll.” READ THE FULL STORY
Fun fact: Our heart and brain are 73% water; our lungs are 83%.
We are literally vessels of water paddling a vessel on the water. Perhaps that's why so many of us are drawn to this element. It is literally life-giving.
It is also life-taking. The largest risks come from complacency in the competent, lack of risk awareness in the beginner and insufficient rescue training/practice skills for both.
We imagine some dramatic Class V rapid being the end of a whitewater paddler but the reality is that the majority of deaths/injuries occur on Class II or less waterways. This is where we find the newest paddlers bursting with excitement to hit the river with their new gear. Their lack of river knowledge and pure unadulterated gusto often leads to dire consequences.
A good example of this is the paddle boarder who shows up at a “mellow” section of the Bow River. Board in hand, PFD on board not on the body, ankle leash securely strapped on and along with their friends also new to paddling they set off on an adventure.
Chatting, floating and immersed in their surroundings, suddenly one of them finds themselves going into a sweeper on the river. Unable to maneuver quickly enough they are knocked off their board and suddenly find themselves tangled on the log. Consequently, the board and ankle leash keep them pinned in the river current making it impossible to release the pressure and board. The friends watch helplessly as the person drowns.
The Swiftwater Rescue Training for River Runner is coming to Calgary! Geared towards just that; the recreational paddler. Learn how to identify and avoid hazards, rescue with minimal equipment and with resources you feel comfortable using to save a life maybe even your own.
Check out the latest upcoming course in Calgary on July 15/16, sign up online at Raven Rescue: https://www.ravenrsm.com/course/rescue-for-river-runners/
To those who seek solitude in nature there is no greater stage than the mountains, allowing us to feel minute and as we feel small physically our problems shrink exponentially with it.
As we made our way to the put-in at McLeod Meadows in Kootenay National Park. Anticipation was at a pinnacle, the warm sunny days ahead we’re setting us up for a perfect trip. As we approached the river and began getting our gear out it almost seemed surreal what we were about to embark on.
Our first day we had a deadline to meet, make our way out of the National Park to make camp for the night. It is unlawful to randomly camp in a pristine wilderness park such as the Canadian Rockies unless it is in a life threatening survival situation. In order to maintain its beauty the park designates campsites to use.
As the valley began to close in around us making our way towards Cross River. Our group settled in on the current. Rosie The Raft and her companion unicorn Estevan were a sight to behold on the water.
Nothing in life should ever be taken too seriously, except river safety but Rosie and Estevan were safe at all times on the water with their trusty guide Reta from CANRVRSUP and unicorn wrangler/photographer Ashley Voikin.
Although this is a well-travelled river people are respectful of each other’s space and finding a peaceful spot for the night was not difficult.
We made our way to the river right for the night to set up camp, being on this side allows us to wake with the sun and have the warmth of its rays soak into our skin as we began the next day.
Settling into camp eating supper with the sound of water running over rocks and the promise of three more great days ahead of us.
Willy Wonka’s Cheerleaders
Morning dawned and the crystal blue waters now ran chocolate brown like Charlie In The Chocolate Factory sans the edible flavour. With this came the opportunity to send the Palliser Rapid at high water.
As the raft approached first to the rapid, a massive camp on river right of paddlers noticed the eccentric group of people coming down the river. They were so stoked to see us that they ran and lined the edges of the river bank cheering on Rosie, Estevan and the SUP paddlers hitting Palliser Rapid.
With each person through they supported us screaming for the clean sends and total carnage swims with equal delight. To say this was a trip highlight is an understatement. Their stoke and enthusiasm boosted us for the rest of the day. But wait it’s not over.
An epic adventure requires a fitting farewell, the final day was not without its own majesty. The water ran clear on this day and we again had a jewelled vein to follow past the monolithic rocks.
Rosie and Estevan quietly drank in the views as Ashley continued to capture them with her lens. We approached the final take out slowly, with reverence for the landscape we were able to spend the past three days in.
Spirituality occurs naturally in the outdoors, feeling part of something bigger is felt deep in the soul out on the water. Being able to return again is always a gift, never to be taken for granted.
Lead Guide / Owner CANRVRSUP
Compiled and Edited by Lisa Stocking
BADFISH SUP • WATERSHED DRY BAGS • NOMAD NUTRITION • KOKATAT • WERNER PADDLES • AQ OUTDOORS
SHUTTLE IN STYLE WITH A GMC AT4 COCHRANE GMC
The meaning of life is to find your gift; the purpose of life is to give it away…
With deep ancestral ties to the North Saskatchewan River, I feel a special attachment while paddling it. The past 3 years of developing programming, safety protocols and garnering knowledge to guide paddle boards on it has finally come to fruition. I’ve dreamt of sharing this river with others for as long as I can remember.
Being a guide is not glamorous but it is hugely rewarding. Similar to a duck swimming calmly on the surface of the water, there’s so much going on underneath it all. Unless you’ve lived it most people are not aware of how much work is required.
Sometimes the only way through suffering is to go right through it…
It takes courage to sign up for an adventure such as this, there’s always some tentativeness when we push ourselves out of our comfort zone. SUP touring on rivers is a relatively new niche.
Eight women came together, of all different skill levels, ages and backgrounds for this unique experience. After a warm up paddle Thursday near Rocky Mountain House we set off into the wilderness from Nordegg the following day.
The end was bittersweet as we said our goodbyes, not one person in the group had a low to describe in the debrief; only highs. We all left feeling inspired, empowered and forever connected through the last four days of memories. Sometimes a group creates its own special energy that lasts in your heart for life, this was definitely the case for us.
This trip could not have been possible without the impeccable co-guiding of Jackie Stefaniuk who celebrated her birthday on the river with us that weekend. She loved our serenading or so she says! We both look forward to seeing which rivers these strong women conquer next.
That is the ultimate goal for us at CANRVRSUP; to help you feel accomplished and empowered in a safe environment where you can test your limits physically and mentally while smiling.
Check out our upcoming 2023 programs and trips (officially launching in November 2023). We’d love to help you find your flow in life!
Lead Guide / Owner CANRVRSUP
Compiled and Edited by Lisa Stocking
BADFISH SUP • WATERSHED DRY BAGS • NOMAD NUTRITION • KOKATAT • WERNER PADDLES • AQ OUTDOORS
SHUTTLE IN STYLE WITH A GMC AT4 COCHRANE GMC
"So glad that I found the CANRVRSUP team to get me into SUP this summer! Their lessons combined fun, skill building, and safety awareness that had me wanting to get out for more. Joining the Intro to River SUP Touring trip was the highlight of my summer. Being outdoors on a beautiful river, learning, improving, achieving, and sharing good food and company while receiving guiding and coaching that was supportive of all abilities in the group was a great experience. Looking forward to more paddling!" -Lise V
"An experience of a lifetime! The lessons and techniques I learned on this Intro to River SUP tour will help me on other adventures and will stick with me for life. Money well spent, a great story to tell and lots of knowledge gained. Not to mention, a whole lot of fun! I can’t wait for the next opportunity to do something like this. Shout out to Reta, the best paddle instructor ever!" - Wyatt
At CANRVRSUP when we’re not teaching on the water, we are living and breathing paddling through experiences.
Life isn’t about how many breaths you take, it’s about how many moments take your breath away…
Our own team member Lisa Stocking began her river journey in 2020 by paddle boarding from her home near Athabasca to The Grand Rapids, an expedition of 200 km. Taking her two and a half days to do so. She was solo on her SUP, but her husband also came along as her safety and shuttle home in a jet boat. This inspired her to want to see the whole Athabasca River system in its entirety.
In the fall of 2020 she set the goal of paddling from Jasper to Athabasca in 2021; with the support of the CANRVRSUP team her and Reta set off on this epic adventure together for the first five days self-supported on their Badfish Selfies!
If you’ve always wanted to get a Kula Cloth use the code riverofhope when purchasing a Mystic, Magical or Wondering Kula cloth in our CANRVRSUP store: 10% will go to Project All In and you will save shipping costs!
We encourage you to get out and paddle everyday she is on the water to help raise awareness for mental health and help cheer her on! We will keep you posted on her status and be paddling everyday too!
1. Starting July 10th try and get on the water every day for at least 30 minutes.
2. Enjoy your paddle time, breathe, relax and explore!
3. If it fits with your journey share your paddle #riverofhope22 @love_nsup @project_allin
When Lisa is done this section she will have completed 1217 km of The Athabasca River system and all that remains is the 134 km section from The Grand Rapids to Fort McMurray with many rapids between. The CANRVRSUP team will be there next year in full force on a raft supported SUP descent of this section!
Cue The Journey Song….
Now that you’re singing it in your head. Imagine a small town girl that’s used to paddling a chill river thinking she could show up to a River 1 SUP course and like most things in life figure it out pretty quickly.
While many find the rush of whitewater exhilarating, I was convinced after hearing about all the hazards in the river I was supposed to identify and avoid; I was going to die in it.
There is no rational explanation to the visceral reaction I had standing near the water's edge. My whole being shook: legs, trunk, arms, brain. It was the first time I felt such an adrenaline dump that crippled my ability to learn, react or progress.
Every time I tried to apply what was being explained my body would do the opposite out of reaction. Which caused me to literally do the wrong move each time. It becomes really hard to practice when you’re so tired from self rescuing yourself onto your board. Fear itself is tiring, causing you to become rigid and in turn creating a harder learning environment.
Let’s just say nothing was setting me up for success except Reta Boychuk. She was very patient and evolved herself as an instructor to find ways for me to be successful. If you ever require an exit buddy into the current, that’s a direct reflection of the time she had to ferry me across the river because I froze. Nemo depending on Crush The Turtle….
Other than being determined and understanding that if you keep showing up it eventually happens.
THE RIVER SURFER:
March 2021 I met up with Reta as I came off Vancouver Island and her from The Sunshine Coast. Picking me up in Vancouver we road tripped to the epic Trail Wave. Unsure if it would be at the appropriate levels we took the chance and went anyway.
The Trail Wave I believe was the biggest turning point for me in paddling whitewater. As big as it seems and with a fairly big swim after I was hooked. I was magic. The safest, most perfect place to build my confidence.
Tears of joy and disbelief were coming down after this photo. It seemed so surreal that I just surfed there, without the coaching and mentorship from Reta it would never have happened.
It was a great start to the 2021 paddle season, a year that pushed me further than I ever thought possible. Paddling The Red Deer River at high water, taking my Swift Water Rescue Level 1 Technician, paddling from Jasper to Athabasca 663 km and going down The Slocan River were just a few highlights.
THE RIVER INSTRUCTOR:
Outside of paddling flatwater on Slocan Lake on a winter SUP expedition in February 2022, I hadn’t touched water for over seven months. As past progression showed though, I usually relaxed more over that time and was able to process what needed to happen. It did cross my mind briefly to not even try to attend the course as I wasn’t sure I would be ready.
Winter passed by quickly and I hadn’t even put any thought into the technicalities I should be practicing to prepare for my instructor course until a week out. By studying and getting back into the groove for the week I had this odd unattachment to passing. If I did great, if not I had more work to do; I was prepared for both outcomes.
I had put in the time.
I had connected the dots.
I had the skills.
I trusted myself.
I never shook once beside the river.
I even liked it.
There I said it, I like whitewater.
Having three amazing days of paddling where I felt confident, competent and had fun on the water was such an accomplishment. The deep sense of pride I feel in consistently showing up when I didn’t want to, being supported to keep trying and finishing what I started won’t fade quickly.
It will be shared and passed down to other new paddlers who may struggle with the same things I did. I have deep empathy for those nervous paddlers.
And if nothing else just remember:
Don’t Stop Believing…
Sending You Love N SUP,
The Reluctant Whitewater Paddler
CANRVRSUP River 1 Instructor www.paddleathabasca.com/
Find the Badfish SUP River Shred and Badfish SUP IRS online or locally at AQ Outdoors.
I immediately booked me and my friend for flatwater to river lessons with Reta’s help. This is where my “hear me out” comes in, as that is how I started the conversation with my friend who thought why would we require lessons? Especially for flatwater, after all, it is just “get on your board and paddle”, no biggy…. Tell that to someone not in a life jacket, no leash, or wetsuit/dry suit in a bloody cold lake! (Yes, sadly it still happens). “Hear me out” I said, “we are going to eventually learn River SUP, but I need to start at the beginning. I want to know everything from square one, learn good habits now, know what to do if I fall, how to get back on the board. Learn about all the gear and the safety measures required if I am paddling alone, or with kids, or pets. Eventually I want to learn to travel on water with my board, sleep under the stars, this will be good for you too! You with me or without me???”
Suffice to say, she was stoked and totally in…Since we have taken the lessons, our excitement has grown even more as you never know where these lessons will take you.
It was an absolute pleasure to take our first lessons with Rebecca and Amanda for Flatwater, who described the equipment, gear and safety requirements, as well the proper technique of entering and existing the water. We were shown the proper way to use our paddle (yes, there is a proper way to paddle when SUP’ing). By the end of the first lesson, we were comfortable in falling in deep waters, and getting back on our board. They had our backs the whole time! We were completely safe. Any errors were corrected in a very encouraging way. Our confidence grew to be on flatwater (so did our ego 😊).
At Brave Viking we believe that change starts with you! As a supporter of the Brave Viking brand you will represent the hope, kindness and empathy the world needs to start on the path to healing.
Join us in our mission to build community around mental health by wearing the Brave Viking brand and signalling to others that you are ready, willing and committed to start on the path to mental health and be of service to others in need.
Proceeds from the purchase of a "mystic" Kula cloth will be donated to project all in on behalf of Lisa's river of hope journey.
Check out the Highlights from River of Hope 2021
SUP Slalom Time trial style
Gates and course will be set before the start of the race to allow for viewing and practicing.
Races will be various distances that will be determined before the start of each race.
This race is run in heats of 3 to 5 racers and uses an elimination-style until there are only four racers left.
Downriver SUP Race
Races will be various distances that will be determined before each race.
There is typically only one race, and it will either be a mass start or a staggered timed start.
SUP SURF COMP
1-10 scoring system.
Max 2 min rides 10 Minute HEATS - of 4-5 surfers in each Heat.
Best 2 from each heat move forward to finals.
Paddlers may surf any size or style of board, and you may change boards during the comp. Our goal it is to showcase surfing and control before slippery tricks. The surfers goal is to work their way up the points.
.5 starting bonus for surfing top wave.
1 point bonus for a clean exit and return to eddy at the end of your full time ride.
1 establishing a surf (standing up essentially)
2-3 carving but not super aggressive
3-5 aggressive carving connecting turns (this can be a broader scale if you want it to be. If they're connecting turns and have great style with it and look super in control you can give them a higher score in that)
5-6 Side grinds, ollies (fins out) 6-8 this could be 180s, grabs, shuv its, and airs (how they score within this range could be based on style and control.
8-10 spins, pop shuv its, and whatever other big technical trips are being thrown down there.
Don't forget to SIGN UP for a Kan Fest Clinic to get ready for your event!
Lets have fun!
The CANRVRSUP TEAM!
It is slowly becoming more openly discussed. What once was in the shadows is being brought to the light.
My hope is one day having support for mental health is looked at as having a personal trainer for your mind. Initially, paddling down The Athabasca River from Jasper to Athabasca, AB was just that. A paddler pushing personal boundaries and exploring waterways. Sometimes we have to speak up before we stand up and paddle away. That is why partnering with the following organizations regarding mental health is so important.
Please check out the following:
Project All In
Center For Suicide Prevention
The goal is simple enough. Raise $1 per kilometer paddled: $650 total. (Update: this has been easily surpassed). Intrinsically they’re all tied to the same context but each has a different story and path to follow.
The end game is the same. Stop the stigma, ease suffering and create conversation instead of silence. So, as I paddle the river on long physically and mentally exhausting days, I understand that I am choosing to inflict this on myself. Not everyone gets that choice. Many people live trapped in their own minds, unable to walk away from the pain.
For those people I paddle, bring light to the dark and stand up for!
Please join me virtually as I paddle and share your #riverofhopepaddle pics and stories too!
Follow me @lovensup and @reta.sends on Instagram August 10-20th, anywhere from 25-91 km distances down the river each day. There’s some amazing stories and coincidences to come out even before the paddle begins.