Just up the way, on a winding road past Barry’s Bay, tucked in amongst the trees above the Madawaska River, you’ll find whitewater enthusiasts paddling canoes, kayaks, and stand up paddleboards (SUPs) at Madawaska Kanu Centre (MKC). This riverside resort hosts paddlers from beginners to experts who, like me, are drawn to the challenge and exhilaration of the rapids in a safe and controlled environment.
Although I have been paddling for many years and am certified as a Paddle Canada flatwater SUP instructor, I am new to river running the paddleboard through whitewater. I’ve always been eager to gain some raging river skills and, this summer, I finally found myself immersed in the Middle Madawaska to obtain a river SUP certification that would quench my curiosity. I spent three days on the river in a wetsuit (drysuits recommended in May) with endless rain and I’ve never had more fun in my life!
A New Take on Adventure Paddling
Whitewater SUP is not nearly as common as whitewater canoeing and kayaking but, in my stand-up-paddle-loving opinion, it might just be more fun and accessible, especially if you’re just starting out in moving water.
Paddleboards offer a dynamic experience on the water since you can alter your difficulty level simply by changing your body position. River paddling beginners can choose to drop down from a standing position and run a rapid on their knees until they’re comfortable and ready
to run the rapid while standing on the board. This translates to quickly gaining confidence, seeing clear progression, and the ability to run a longer river section with varying difficulty. Swimming is inevitable and paddleboards are much easier to remount than a canoe or kayak once you find yourself in the water.
What to Expect: Madawaska Kanu Centre
Paddling at MKC was a blast from the start. Our group spent our first day stand up paddling through ‘Claudia’s Roller’, a rapid nicknamed after MKC owner and paddler Claudia Van Wijk, where we fine-tuned flatwater skills, began to play and gain comfort in moving water, and attempted to surf a standing wave.
On day two we paddled a section of the Middle Madawaska below the Bark Lake Dam and learned to ferry, to read the water, and to cross eddy lines. I lost count of the number of times I fell in as well as the number of times I laughed at myself and recognized that there was nowhere else that I would rather have been.
Day three was a mix of re-running the Middle Madawaska river section from the previous day and returning to the surf wave at Claudia’s Roller. I felt immense joy and pride to see the improvement in skill and the confidence gained in moving water over just three days. I had tapped into my inner child in a big way and the Madawaska River was my playground.
After paddling, I took the chance to unwind and connect to the outdoors while digging into hearty meals with new friends, warming up in the wood-fired sauna, and sitting fireside with the resort’s paddling and outdoors library at my fingertips.
I learned a lot on my trip, and had a ton of fun, especially when I fell and had the chance to get back up. See me in action below:
Whether you choose to paddle a canoe, kayak, or stand up paddleboard like myself, here are the best reasons to get paddling at MKC pronto:
- Leave having gained confidence in paddling moving water;
- Gain a sense of personal accomplishment and pride;
- Meet new (incredible, like-minded, fun, nature loving) friends;
- Be present and have your senses fully engaged in the experience;
- Get out of your comfort zone;
- Grow your skills and paddling abilities;
- Earn your rest at night and fall asleep smiling;
- Connect with childlike joy;
- Play simply for the sake of playing
- And finally, because – Paddling rules!
I hope to see you on the water!
Storyteller: Courtney Sinclair Hometown: Ottawa Valley, ON
Courtney is a Paddle Canada Advanced Flatwater SUP Instructor in the Ottawa Valley who loves wilderness paddling and creating empowering outdoor experiences to support others to ‘go outside and grow inside’. Through paddle-based outdoor programming, writing, and personal leadership activities, Courtney turns to nature to foster a strengthened sense of self and relationship to the outdoors. She can be found exploring local waterways and paddling with her SUP pup, Sully. Connect with Courtney on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and through her website.