Words by Tim Shuff
Known for sports teams that can't clinch championships, Toronto might want to rebrand itself as an underdog SUP paradise.
The continent's fourth largest city boasts an 85-mile Lake Ontario shoreline that's almost all public park. Launch anywhere for downwinders or tours of the Scarborough Bluffs' nine miles of wild shoreline cliffs. Explore Tommy Thompson Park—a three-mile spit jutting into the lake that's home to more cormorants and coyotes than humans.
From the Harbourfront Canoe & Kayak Centre, which serves 12,000 paddlers a year smack at the base of the city's landmark CN Tower, it's short strokes to the Toronto Islands, an 800-acre archipelago where you can skinny-dip at Hanlan's Point Beach (officially clothing optional), tuck into placid lagoons or paddle the outside to lose sight of the city's stunning downtown skyline. At Kew-Balmy Beach, sign up for SUP yoga, a surf class or sunrise paddle with the SUP Girlz—Toronto's oldest SUP school.
Did we mention surf? The rapid 10-year growth of Mike Sandusky's recommended Surf Ontario shop, from suburban garage into its burgeoning industrial space, highlights the unlikely Toronto transformation into an avid surf town.
"All along the lakeshore there are shelves that kick up pretty good shorebreak when the conditions are right. It's not uncommon to surf clean, waist- to head-high waves," says Larry Cain, Olympic sprint-canoe champion turned world-class SUP racer and coach who trains out of nearby Oakville—and who often lines up for the city's marquee race events like the annual Mammoth Marathon around the Toronto Islands.
When Canadian winter winds push denser air to stoke ocean-like conditions, that doesn't stop the hardcore locals. "Some of the best paddling of the year happens when there's snow on the ground," says Cain. "I can't think of a better place to paddle in the northeast."
This article was originally published in the Summer 2018 issue of SUP Magazine.