When you have the opportunity to try something new, especially something that invites you to step outside of your comfort zone a little (or a lot), do you take on the challenge?
For us, it’s a hard yes. We asked ourselves this exact question when we discovered we’d have the chance to get out on the water in Vancouver with Windsure Adventure Watersports and try three completely different yet equally thrilling water-based activities.
Windsurfing? You bet. Standup paddleboarding? Absolutely. Skimboarding? Double checkmark, please. Once we signed our waivers, we got ready for one of the most exhilarating Wednesdays we’ve ever had, filled with smooth sailing (sort of), plenty of firsts, and a ton of bloopers.
Surf town vibes
When our team (myself, Jessica, Justin, and Vanessa) arrived at Windsure, we instantly felt as though we were transported to a quaint surf town in a movie, complete with a surf shack and surf-style boards of all kinds around us.
With the sand at Jericho Beach beneath our toes and a light wind blowing, it was the perfect setting to experience a water sport culture that’s so innate to Vancouver — a culture that Windsure has helped grow over the past 44 years. In fact, Bernard Labrosse, the founder of Windsure, played an integral role in establishing the sport of windsurfing (first created in California) in Western Canada before it gained traction worldwide.
At the start of the 2021 season, his daughter Sophie Labrosse took over the family business, and just moments into our first lesson of the day, we realized how the centre has a close-knit team who share a passion for our local waters and the fun to be had on the waves.
Full disclosure: not one member of our team had tried windsurfing before. To say we were in for a real treat with a beginner lesson was an understatement. First, our instructor, Mike Coleman took us through a detailed demo, explaining everything from how to set up our gear to how to tack (turn into the wind).
Windsurfing is a little more technical, so it’s essential to take a lesson — whether you’re an avid adventure-seeker or simply in search of a new challenge. There’s certainly a lot to remember, but you’re equipped with the tips and tricks needed to do your best from your instructor.
Jessica, Justin, Vanessa, and I each had the chance to get hands-on with the board and sail on a simulator before we even left the beach, which was extremely helpful for getting our bearings ahead of our collective debut on the intermittently choppy waters. We managed to get sailing time in under Mike’s direction and quickly found an appreciation for this awesome sport.
“Never look where you’re going to fall,” he told us, a tip that helped us keep our eyes up and maintain our balance. If you look down at the water, you’re more likely to fall in.
The best part about windsurfing is that anyone can do it, and if you’re feeling comfortable after two lessons, you can rent out the equipment to head out on the water solo. The first time around, I fell in MANY times. That being said, I realized that falling is all part of the learning process, and I’m looking forward to booking a second lesson!
Jericho Beach is easily one of the most picturesque places in the world to try standup paddleboarding. Honestly, what could be better than taking in scenes of the North Shore mountains, Stanley Park, and the downtown cityscape while gliding along the water?
Although lessons aren’t required, booking in for one is a great way to learn water safety and ensure your form is the most efficient it can be — before you decide standup paddleboarding is your new favourite hobby. Our instructor for the lesson, Mackenzie Coleman (Mike’s sister and a lifelong watersports enthusiast), explained everything we needed to know in detail before we got on the water.
At first, it took a minute for us to get our groove on the paddleboards. Then, before we knew it, we were able to shift from our knees to standing up. We found ourselves riding over light waves and holding down our form in a stance that felt like a pretty solid core workout (core workouts are not usually the most enjoyable, but this is a true exception that happens to be ridiculously relaxing, too).
Vanessa, Justin, Jessica, and I followed Mackenzie’s lead and admired postcard-worthy views all the way across Vancouver while we paddled. Would we come back to rent paddleboards with friends on our next day off? One thousand per cent.
And for those who have paddling experience already, Windsure runs a Paddle Club with guided paddles at sunrise and sunset. Could you imagine a better way to start or end the day?
For our third and final lesson of the day, we had the joy of trying a quintessentially Vancouver water sport with flat-land skimboarding (this approach to skimboarding was pioneered in Vancouver!). Since it has to be done on flat land, the tide must be out at the time of your lesson.
Together with our instructors, Ben Wilson and Max Cameron, we made our way over to Spanish Banks. There are always shallow pools of water to skim across while the tide is out in this area, they told us. After a couple of demos and learning how to hold, throw, and jump on the boards, we gave it our best shots. And, wow — this watersport is heaps of fun.
Someone who enjoys snowboarding, surfing, or skateboarding could pick up this watersport a little faster, and as you progress, you can end up riding ramps or even performing tricks (think ollies or shuvits). But it’s really something anyone can do (I’m personally into skiing and loved it). A lesson is certainly worthwhile to help you get your technique down. Plus, you can learn from instructors who’ve had students go on to become pro skimboarders.
Justin, Vanessa, Jessica, and I finished our day of adrenaline rushes on a high note, ready to plan our next visit to Windsure. To try any of the COVID-safe activities that we did, visit windsure.com to make a booking.
Pro tip: all you need is a bathing suit, a towel, and sunscreen. Everything else is provided!