Vancouver is an ocean city. Much of our local culture streams from a love affair with all things aquatic, and as summer rolls around once again, the tide is rising on the number of sports that will coax you to the shore.
If you’re bored by Vancouver’s typical board sports, it’s time to give kiteboarding a spin. Combining aspects of wakeboarding, windsurfing, and snowboarding, kiteboarding involves being pulled across the ocean by a large power kite while trying to stay upright on a small surfboard. Easy.
Although the true home of kiteboarding here is Squamish, there’s plenty of opportunity to don your wetsuit on Vancouver’s beaches. The intersection of Jericho Beach and Spanish Banks is a popular launch spot when a westerly wind is blowing, and is particularly recommended for experienced kiters. Adventurous souls braving this beach, a busy area both in and out of the water, should set out from the farthest-west point to avoid the City of Vancouver’s restricted area.
Kiteboarding is best embraced in the spring, winter, and fall, but there are still a good couple of weeks left before Vancouver’s calm summer days prevent kite-powered propulsion.
If being hurled around by a giant kite doesn’t float your boat, slower-paced skimboarding might be for you. Although it’s rising in popularity, a lot of Vancouver residents still consider skimboarding to be the poor cousin of surfing. Those people probably don’t live in Kits.
Low tide sees Spanish Banks awash with riders gliding the flats. Throwing down a small, smooth board onto a patch of shallow water, jumping on, and riding with its momentum, skimmers have found a way to take advantage of aquatic sports on Vancouver’s waveless shores. Wreck Beach, Spanish Banks, and Jericho Beach have established themselves as a skimboarder’s paradise—so much so that West Point Grey Academy and Windsure Adventure Watersports now offer professional classes.
Numerous well-known skimboarding tricks are said to have been invented along Vancouver’s beaches. Join the tradition.
Although skimming and kiting might be growing in popularity, the behemoth of board sports remains standup paddleboarding. According to Mike Cotter, general manager of the Jericho Sailing Centre, the number of paddlers in the city has “virtually doubled” in each of the past five years—which means you’ve probably already tried it.
There are a couple of ways you can jazz up the hobby.
You can’t get any more “Vancouver” than standup-paddleboard yoga, or “SUP yoga” to the pros. Although some commentators are dismissing the practice as a flash in the pan, major sports brands disagree, pumping money into developing new equipment.
While some Vancouverites choose SUP yoga to commune directly with nature, others opt for the floating workout to challenge themselves physically. Take it from us, performing a downward-facing dog on the sea is tougher than it looks
With popular spots to launch your “moving mat” including Kits Beach, English Bay, and Locarno Beach, you’ll be spoiled for choice to show off those beach-bod abs when you paddle back to the shore.
People of Chinese descent form a sizable part of Greater Vancouver’s population, so it comes as little surprise that the heritage sport of dragon-boat racing rules the waves of False Creek.
With a standard dragon-boat crew consisting of 22 people, it’s one of the only Vancouver water sports where it’s acceptable to bring 21 friends. Twenty paddlers sit in pairs facing the bow of the boat, a drummer, or “caller”, keeps the paddlers in time, and a “sweep” is in charge of steering the boat with a rudder.
Where you sit in the boat makes a big difference. If you’ve got muscles like Arnold Schwarzenegger, the back of the craft is for you. If you’re a steady Eddy, put yourself in the middle. If you’ve got rhythm, move up front.
With the option to launch into False Creek from either Main Street or Granville Island, dragon-boat racing is the ideal sport for East Van or downtown residents who don’t want to pay for the bus.
Although with most water sports you try to remain dry, Vancouver’s ocean is just as interesting under the surface.
Diving is a growing pastime, establishing itself as one of the city’s premier aquatic pursuits. The ocean around Vancouver can accommodate a range of skill levels; beginners enjoy easy dives with shore access and more advanced explorers scout the area’s sunken wrecks.
Octopuses and wolf eels run riot in nearby marine-life-rich waters, and more adventurous divers can charter to swim with some of B.C.’s resident seals. For prime diving spots, check out the sheltered waters in Howe Sound, Deep Cove, and Indian Arm—or, if you’re feeling really daring, head to parts of Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast, or Powell River for what Scuba Diving magazine readers call “the best overall rating of diving in North America”.