Even at busy downtown Sunnyside Beach, the city experience is something quite different standing atop a paddleboard.
While paddling along the break wall toward the Humber River, the city seems serene. The water is like glass – still and calm – and the sounds of cars on the nearby Lake Shore Boulevard are inaudible. Only the distant laughs of children romping on the beach can be heard.
“There is a point up the Humber River where all you can see is trees and birds,” said Jenifer Rudski, paddle board instructor and enthusiast. “Not a single building or skyscraper, just trees.”
Being able to step away from the city without actually leaving the city is one of the benefits of paddle boarding, a water sport that combines surfing and kayaking and is relatively new in the City of Toronto.
“Getting away from the city is such a big thing for urbanites, but for some people it is impossible,” she said. “Paddle boarding provides people with an opportunity to get away without having to drive six hours up the highway.”
Rudski has been paddle boarding for three years and in that time has taught the sport in the east end of the city as well as South America.
Rudski said she has seen the sport grow exponentially.
“It has been a fast growing, both in the boarding community – so people who snowboard, kiteboard or skateboard – but also all the paddlers (kayakers) have really gotten into it because it is such a diverse sport,” she said. “You can do it sitting, kneeling or standing so it keeps it really interesting.”
Beyond the excitement, Rudski said paddle boarding offers a full body workout.
Rudski lives just west of Roncesvalles. She grew up in Toronto and said living just minutes from the water is energizing. She said she has always been into board sports, but oddly enough it was while en route to a snowboarding trip in British Colombia that the seeds for paddle boarding were sown.
“My (snow)board fell off the roof of the car so I convinced my friends just to keep driving west to Torino (B.C.),” Rudski said. “So we just showed up in Tofino and rented surf boards...and I was hooked.”
When she was introduced to stand up paddle boarding on Lake Ontario, Rudski said she realized she could get a surfing type experience in Toronto.
“The thing that makes me connect to it is being on the water,” Rudski said. “I have always found water therapeutic and healing.”
She launched Osha Paddle Boarding and Yoga at Sunnyside Beach in June where she teaches both paddle boarding and, for those willing to truly test their balance, yoga from atop a paddle board on the lake.
Rudski is a certified paddle board instructor through Paddle Canada and a registered yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance.
There has been a lot of interest in paddleboard instruction, she said.
Two of her students confirm.
“I remember seeing some paddlers last summer when I was kayaking and I was really intrigued by it,” said Melanie Larose, who lives in Queen’s Quay and who took her third trip paddle boarding with Rudski July 11.
She first tried the sport at the Mountain Equipment Co-op Paddle Fest in early June at Sunnyside Beach and said she liked it so much she decided to continue with it and booked some classes with Rudski.
“It always intrigued me how people could find balance on boards on the water,” Larose said. “It looked like a fun activity to do.”
Andrea Walker, from Lake Shore and Park Lawn Road area, which is not far from Sunnyside Beach, came across a poster for paddle boarding while at that beach and decided to give it a try.
“It is a pretty awesome sport because you feel it working your upper body. You are standing so you feel it in your legs and in your core muscles,” Walker said. “Then there is the whole balance thing.”
She completed an introduction to paddle boarding with Osha and on July 11 took her second class.
“When I did the introductory class it reminded me of surfing,” Walker said. “That is something I have always wanted to try but there is nowhere to do it around here. This is the next best thing.”