Best Local SUP Instructors: Norm Hann
Cold climates breed hardy folks. The weather dictates how they live their lives. But there are always those special souls who venture out regardless of the conditions. Norm Hann is among the hardy. And he faces winter's worst with a paddle in is hands.
"I take pride in being a Canadian paddler," Hann says. "We're fortunate up here; you can paddle all winter. I take pride in paddling in all conditions."
Hann, 44, is one of Canada's leading paddlers, finishing the Molokai-2-Oahu last year solo, starring in the conservation movie "Stand" and bringing serious SUP expeditions and training to British Columbia.
Hann grew up in Northern Ontario, Canada wandering around the outdoors surrounding his grandpa's cabin. When he was in college he played basketball at the national level while getting his teaching certification. He taught for a couple years and spent his summers hanging out in Banff where he "got into the Western mindset" while earning guiding credentials on the side.
In 2000 he moved west for good and found a job guiding fishing, hiking and kayaking trips at the King Pacific Lodge, deep in the Great Bear Rainforest, which stretches up the BC coast from Vancouver Island toward southeast Alaska.
"I loved the ocean and loved surfing but you can only get so good if you're not (on the ocean) everyday," Hann says. "SUP looked like the absolute perfect combo of paddling and surfing."
After forcing a local to sell him one of the only standup boards in the area, Hann took to the water.
"Being a guide on the coast here in BC, my eyes just got really wide at the potential of having SUP on the coast," he says.
Hann first did a paddle along proposed oil tanker routes covering 400 kilometers from Kitamat down through Great Bear. This stretch of coast grew close to Hann's heart over his time guiding there and would eventually turn into the "Stand" movie project. He started bringing people on tours there that same year.
"It's an area under threat," he says. "There are people in Canada and the US seeing what's happening and want to check it out."
He also began his own standup business in Squamish.
"It's beneficial to me to have a teaching background," Hann says. "Coming from a high-caliber athletic background I also had a lot of tremendous coaches. Standup is so multi-disciplinary that I believe teaching the foundation and the proper skills, sets (beginners) up for success for all these disciplines they can do."
Hann is certainly certified for the job, both with on-the-water time and through technical classes such as wilderness first aid and swift water rescue. He's also an instructor for Paddle Canada, which means he teaches at the highest level within their SUP program.
His instruction schedule is fittingly diverse. In the spring he concentrates on teaching paddle surfing and instructor trainings, getting shops and businesses ready for the upcoming busy season (an area which he says is growing rapidly). In the summer he focuses on touring and expeditions and then in the fall he comes back around to surfing.
"It's a lot of fun introducing people to our coastline and opening peoples eyes to what you can do on a standup paddleboard," he says. "You can get as gnarly as you want with it. I look at it as a really incredible tool to experience water with." —Will Taylor
This article originally ran in our 2014 Beginner’s Guide as “Local Knowledge.”