Paddling into guided tours and date nights on the waters around Vancouver

Whether out on False Creek or in Deep Cove, events bring nature and friends close

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      Shortly after showing up for an introduction to ocean kayaking, everyone was ready to hit the water.

      It took less than half an hour, starting at the compound of the Vancouver Ocean Sports club on Whyte Avenue, near the recently reopened coast guard station at Vanier Park. They were first kitted up with a spray skirt and personal flotation device. Next, they were shown how to get in and out of the kayak.

      Then the beginners were assembled on the nearby beach for a short chat. This included a demonstration of how to use a double-bladed paddle.

      And for the next hour and a half, they paddled on the calm waters of False Creek with the guidance of two instructors, making their way to Kitsilano Beach, then back to where they started, near the south end of the Burrard Bridge.

      Kayaking coach Dave Berrisford was pleased. “Well done!” he commended the new kayakers after everyone returned.

      Berrisford works at MEC, which provided the kayaking lesson. Joining him in the two-hour class was Mikayla Crosson, his colleague at the Vancouver outdoor-gear and clothing retailer.

      “It’s pretty basic stuff, but typically, people, when they get off the water, they feel a little bit more comfortable about kayaking,” Berrisford told the Georgia Straight about the course.

      According to him, what the MEC lesson tries to do is provide beginners with basic skills so they are confident enough to rent a kayak from one of the local outfitters.

      “This is a fantastic place to kayak,” Berrisford said about False Creek, when asked for a good place where beginners can practise. “It’s a very easy launch. It’s close to the city. As you can see, the inlet here is generally protected from the weather. It’s a nice, safe area.”

      Kayaking lessons are also offered at Jericho Beach.

      According to Mike Cotter, general manager of the Jericho Sailing Centre, a favourite route for kayakers is from that beach to the West End’s English Bay beach.

      “It’s a great way to experience our natural environment,” Cotter told the Straight by phone about the outdoor activity.

      The Jericho Sailing Centre contracts Ecomarine Paddlesport Centres to deliver kayaking lessons.

      In addition to courses, Ecomarine offers tours. According to owner Chris Ladner, one of the more popular excursions starts every day at 10:30 a.m. from Granville Island, where the company operates a year-round location.

      There are also sunset and full-moon kayaking tours, which start at Jericho Beach and English Bay, where Ecomarine operates during warm months.

      Ladner’s favourite trip is a three-and-a-half-hour summer guided outing that takes kayakers from English Bay to the shorelines of Stanley Park. They disembark at Third Beach for an interpretive walk through the rainforest.

      “Paddling attracts everyone, from age eight to 88,” Ladner told the Straight by phone.

      Over on the North Shore, lessons and tours are offered by the Deep Cove Canoe and Kayak Centre. The peaceful waters of Deep Cove make a nice location for a relaxing paddle.

      Owner Bob Putnam related that one of the company’s regular clients is a teacher who likes to paddle out and read a book for an hour.

      The business also organizes events like cheap-date nights on Fridays, which feature discounted rental rates.

      According to Putnam, a popular event is Women on Water, every Thursday evening from late April through the summer. Guided by volunteers, women paddle at their own pace in a noncompetitive environment.

      “Some of them are fast. Some of them are slow. And at some point, they turn around, and then at that point, the slow ones are the lead,” Putnam told the Straight by phone.

      The Thursday paddles include themed events in the summer, like the mother-daughter night and dress-up night, when women can show up in their finest dresses.

      “You can sort of paddle along beside somebody and chat and talk, and take in the scenery and get some exercise, right?” Putnam observed. “You know, like if you’re going to do that on a bicycle, it’s a little more difficult because you have to pay attention to traffic. Mountain biking, you know, you’re sometimes on little trails. Whereas this, you can kind of trundle along at your own pace and just enjoy a chat and not have to worry about too much.”

      For the more adventurous, Deep Cove also provides access to Indian Arm, an 18-kilometre fiord extending north from Burrard Inlet.

      Back in Vancouver, MEC outreach coordinator Nick Hastie told the Straight by phone that the company is organizing a “paddle fest”. The event will be held on June 18 at the Jericho Sailing Centre. Instructors from MEC, Ecomarine Paddlesport Centres, and the Deep Cove Canoe and Kayak Centre will provide lessons in kayaking, standup paddleboarding, and surf skiing.

      MEC coach Dave Berrisford says that although his introductory ocean-kayaking class sticks to the basics, students typically feel more self-assured afterward.