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Paddling Your Way to the Perfect Muskoka Vacation

Summer is the perfect time to try something new, especially when you’re in vacation mode. And even more so if that vacation mode finds you by a lake in Muskoka. Sure, it’s fun to jump off the dock, splash around, or get lazy on a lounger by the beach. But, if you’re going to be by or even in the water, why not get out on the water? That’s the way to live your Muskoka vacation to the fullest. These activities are not just for the summer, as long as weather is on your side you can enjoy the lake until mid-October.

One of the best ways to get out on the water is with silent watercraft activities. What the heck is that you ask? Well, the ‘silent’ part comes from the absence of a motor, so this is about getting out watercraft that you power yourself, that is, either with pedals or a paddle.  It can be said that pedalling is the easiest, which is how you’d power a pedal boat or waterbike. But paddling is not only the classic way to play the waves but will open up a wonderful new world on the water you can enjoy at any age. Paddling vessels include canoes, kayaks, SUPs (stand-up paddle boards), and even cute round kayaks called corcles.  

Never used a paddle before? No worries. Pick your craft and let the simplicity of the paddling movement and tranquillity of the water transport you into full vacation-mode.  There’s no better way to get close to nature on the water.  

 

TIPS FOR FIRST EXPERIENCES

Paddle Boarding

When you want to try paddle boarding for the first time it can be very intimidating, but with a few pointers, you’ll be able to get out on your board and build your confidence and skills.

  • No Rush to Stand Up | There is no shame in not getting up on your feet for the first time you go out. All the experts started somewhere and you should too. Stay on your knees until you’re comfortable. 
  • Use That Core Strength | Everyone has the urge to strictly use their arms when on a SUP. The trick is to engage your core and have your arms follow after; this will allow you to reduce fatigue, and tired arms and will provide you with a more effective stroke.

 

Canoeing 

More often than not canoeing is a team activity. If this is your first time it is strongly encouraged you to have a partner for this experience. There are sophisticated techniques for paddling, such as the ‘J’ stroke to help with steering, but for beginners these tips will get you started. Once you decide you’d like to learn more about paddling techniques there are many instruction videos online.  

  • Time to Sync Up  | To maximize your forward momentum and not spin in circles you’re going to have to put in some teamwork. (If you’re on your own a kayak is a better choice for your first paddling excursion.)
  • The individual at the back (stern) is the one who sets the pace and steers; the individual at the front adds paddling power and follows instructions (and alerts the back paddler about any upcoming rocks, logs or other obstacles to avoid).
  • The easiest way for beginners to stay on track is for each person to paddle on opposite sides, then switch to give their arms a break. 
  • Be sure to place your upper hand over the TOP of the paddle, then place your other hand about half way down the paddle. This will give you power and agility. 
  • When you paddle on the left, the canoe will veer to the right and vice versa. So, if you need to steer in a certain direction or to turn around, then both paddlers should paddle on the same side. 

 

  • Don’t Rock the Boat, Baby | As long as you stay seated and do not intentionally rock your boat, tipping a canoe is pretty hard to do but you do have to respect that it can happen so caution is the best practice.  
  • Don’t shift weight suddenly; stay centred. If one paddler wants to lean closer to one side, the other paddler should counterbalance their weight on the other side. 
  • When getting into the canoe, steady yourself by holding onto both sides of the canoe at all times until seated. You can cheat by getting in when a small portion of the canoe is still grounded on the lake bottom. Once seated, push off with your paddle. 
  • If large waves from a motorboat are headed your way, steer directly into the waves so you ‘crash’ through rather than get caught in the rolling motion alongside the waves. 

 

Kayaking 

Unlike a canoe paddle a kayak paddle has blades on both ends. Some consider this double the fun! The paddler simply keeps alternating strokes from side to side to stay on course, or if needing to change direction, paddling on one side only until the new course is achieved. You can choose from kayaks designed for single paddlers or two paddlers.  

 

  • Choose a Calm Day | The best way to learn to Kayak is to pick a day with minimal wind and clear skies. This will allow for comfort and relaxing experiences for your first time out. Early morning or later afternoon are usually the calmest times of the day.

 

  • Stay Close to the Shoreline | Knowing your distance limit as a new kayaker can be challenging; everyone is different when it comes to fatigue levels, muscle mass and previous experience. A good way to start is to stay close to the shoreline and don’t too travel far, this gives you time to figure out how long you can paddle without exerting yourself on the way back. Not to mention it’s a wonderful way to enjoy a scenic route of nature. The good thing about kayaking is even if you get tired, nobody is stopping you from sitting back and taking a break!

 

Where to Get Started? 

 In cottage country you can rent canoes, kayaks and SUPs from outfitters, such as Algonquin Outfitters in Huntsville and Algonquin Park, but that involves strapping the vessels to your vehicle, offloading them then reloading them for the trip back which is the hardest part. The easiest way to get your feet wet in the paddling world is booking a stay at a resort where those activities are included. At Deerhurst Resort for example, access is provided to all paddling activities for everyone in your accommodation with one nightly resort fee among many other activities.  

Not sure what else you’ll need? 

Don’t worry we’ve got you covered. Out on the lake doesn’t always feel as hot as it actually is  with the breeze coming off the water, so ensure you have UV protection, a towel, bottle of water, and most importantly a positive attitude! 

 

Fun Facts About Paddling 

  • The indigenous Inuit, Yup’ik and Aleut people were the first to invent and develop Kayaks.
  • The canoe/kayak sprint made its debut at the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics. 
  • The world’s oldest canoe was found in the Netherlands in 1995, and it is believed to be around 10,000 years old.
  • The sport of canoeing made its first appearance in the Olympics in the 1924 Paris Games. 
  • Modern SUP began in Hawaii in the 1940s when surf instructors would stand on their boards to see waves and other surfers

See you on the water! Learn more about Deerhurst Resort silent watercraft activities here.