Dragonfly SUP Adventures, based in Qualicum Beach, is offering locals and tourists a unique and active way to sightsee while exploring local waterways.
Standup paddle boarding is a spinoff of surfing, with people standing on their boards and using a paddle to propel themselves through the water.
Once The NEWS caught wind of Dragonfly SUP Adventures, run by husband-and-wife team Michael and Evelyne Doerksen, we thought it would be a great way to begin an interactive video series for myself and arts reporter Emily Vance.
Neither of us had been on a standup paddle board before, so we didn’t know what to expect.
Emily said she didn’t quite get the point of standup paddle boarding before trying it.
“I thought it was kind of a strange sport. You stand on a board and paddle around?! I typically like sports that involve high adrenaline, so I thought I would get bored,” she said. “After experiencing it first-hand, I now get the appeal. It’s a low-impact workout that allows you to explore shorelines and traverse waterways without much gear other than a paddle and a board.”
The adventure was supposed to begin in the ocean off Qualicum Beach, but gusty winds and waves too big for beginner paddle boarders like us sent us 16 kilometres west to Spider Lake.
Michael Doerksen said safety is always a prerequisite for getting out on the board.
“You always look at the weather conditions,” he said. “Like a day like today, too windy to go in the ocean, too wavy for beginners especially. You make good choices like today we’re going to go to Spider Lake for a paddle which is pretty well always calm.”
The water was much calmer at Spider Lake making it a perfect spot to stand up on a board for the first time. Evelyne and Michael were amazing hosts, carrying the boards down to the water for us and giving us all the tips and tricks for getting up on the board.
“The first thing I always like to do is give [participants] a demonstration of the paddle. There’s a curve on the paddle, the curve actually goes forward,” Michael said. “Then I’m going to explain where you stand on the board, how you keep your feet parallel to your shoulders staying very relaxed and looking at the horizon.”
I was nervous to get on the board and fall off into the water, not because I didn’t want to swim, but because I didn’t want to have to sit in the office the rest of the day with wet hair. Luckily I didn’t fall in but Michael said you shouldn’t worry about getting wet and that he often encourages people to dunk in right away.
“Not being afraid to fall into the water, that’s probably the key right there,” Michael said.
Getting up on the board was a lot easier than I expected and I caught on pretty quickly. There was a bit more technique than I initially thought, but Michael and Evelyn were there to remind us where to put the paddle in the water and when to take it out.
Emily added the learning curve isn’t too steep and once you’re on the board, and you’ve got your balance, you’re good to go.
“It was a really great workout. For the first half-hour or so, I was trying to grip the board with my feet, which is totally unnecessary, and something that Michael said beginners often do,” Emily said. “Once I relaxed my feet, I realized that the balance was more about core and leg strength. We were probably out for an hour-and-a-half, maybe two, and I only started to get tired near the end. The scenery on Spider Lake is so gorgeous, it kept me entertained.”
In terms of things that we think are helpful to bring on a paddle boarding adventure, definitely sunscreen and a hat if it’s sunny and maybe a light sweater if it’s windy.
“Also, don’t bring anything that isn’t waterproof. Evelyn said that’s something people often do. Prepare to get your feet (and maybe the rest of you!) wet as well,” Emily added.
People of all ages can paddle board. Michael said he sees everyone from age three to 80 interested in paddle boarding. Dragonfly SUP Adventures carries a wide range of quality boards to suit everyone—from beginner to expert. All rentals include a free basic introduction lesson, a board, paddle, life-jacket, whistle, leash and safety overview.
Groups can also book tours to Little Qualicum River and Spider Lake. Both Michael and Evelyne are certified Paddle Canada Advanced Flatwater SUP instructors.
New this year, Dragonfly now runs out of the ‘SUP Shack’ on the main beach, just down from the Shore restaurant in Qualicum Beach. The shack is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, weather dependent.