Just Returned From → Baffin Island, Nunavut. Headed To → Zoagli, Italy.

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5 All-Canadian Sports To Try This Summer

summer

Looking for a new way to take advantage of the summer weather in Canada? Check out my top picks:

In This Sports & Recreation Article You Will Discover:

  • Top Recreation Spots in Canada
  • Unknown Gems To Check Out
  • How, Where & Why For Top Activities
  • And More!

Canadians love to take advantage of their all-too-short summer. Getting outside in summer is our unofficial national pastime.

American author Sam Keen stated, “Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.” I’ve been known to enjoy some time in a hammock or on a beach towel, to be sure, but as a good Canadian, I have to respectfully disagree with Professor Keen on this point. For me, deep summer is a time to get active. After all, the dog days come and go far too quickly… maybe that’s what ultimately separates us from our friends to the south.

This summer, I challenge you to try something new. Or perhaps, several things new. Looking for inspiration? Here are five sports to try out this summer:

1. Surfing

tofino-surf-tourismbc-tom-ryan

Tofino has been rated the best surf town in North America, and Long Beach has fantastic surfing all summer long — and winter too! (Tourism BC/Tom Ryan Photo)

Yeah, I said surfing — in Canada. Surfing is one of the most challenging and rewarding sports in existence. In that, it is also one of the most frustrating. However, you will never forget your first successful ride — I promise you that. Riding a wave is at once calming and exhilarating. You’ll feel close to nature — as you’re literally riding one of the Earth’s great forces — and king of the world at the same time. In between waves, you can enjoy the ocean scenery as you bob about, pondering life, the universe and everything. It’s no wonder that every die-hard surfer you meet has a spiritual side. Being constantly connected to the life-giving ocean tends to do that to you.

So — while I won’t go into the nuances of standing on a wave right here, let me just assure you it’s easier than you think. However, let me also assure you that it may take a couple of days before you actually “surf.” Start out on an eight- or nine-foot foam-top board, wear a wetsuit (in Canada’s cold water) and be watchful of other boarders. The only guarantee is that you’ll have fun.

Top Surf Spot: Tofino (Long Beach), British Columbia

2. Bird watching

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Brackendale Eagles Park offers some of the best birdwatching in the world. (Tourism BC Photo)

Bird watching is not a “sport” you say? Tell that to the ‘watcher who scrambles into high alpine areas on multi-day hikes just to get a close up look at the Golden Crowned Sparrow! Bird watching is, essentially, hiking with purpose. Take your telezoom lens or binoculars, pack a lunch and trek off into the woods with a list of birds to see — and pledge not to return until you run through your list. It’s a wonderful way to spend the day, and will lead you into some fantastic hikes and wildlife viewing opportunities. Stay hydrated, pack a field guide to birding and some high-energy snacks, like nuts of beef jerky, and book the whole day.

Bird watching can be as extreme or as relaxing as you like, but for one of the most majestic avian opportunities in Canada, head to Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park. In winter, this area is home to the largest concentration of eagles in the world. In 1994, the single day eagle count was 3,769! However, even in the summer months, eagles can still be seen regularly, along with 148 other species of birds throughout the year. Other wildlife sightings include black bears, coyotes, the northern flying squirrel, 11 different amphibians a few different types of snakes and so much more. The 755-hectare park has no facilities, due to its high conservation value, so it’s pack-in, pack out for whatever you bring with you.

Top Bird watching Spot: Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park, Squamish, BC

3. Sport Fishing

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Great Bear Lake, Northwest Territories, is renowned as the number-one fishing destination in the world.

It’s a little known fact that almost 10 per cent of the population of Canada will engage in recreational fishing this year. That makes fishing more popular, in terms of participation, than golf or hockey. So will you wet a line? Besides being a lot of fun, fishing has many intrinsic benefits. First, a portion of the proceeds from recreational fishing licence sales go towards aiding in conservation and stewardship of fish and fish habitat. Second, if you choose to eat what you catch, you’ll gain a better understanding of the where food comes from, and therefore gain a healthier respect for food — as well as a finding a wonderful source of organic meat. Third, spending time in the outdoors and getting up-close-and-personal with animal species, from the fish you catch to the birds that swoop overhead, teaches you to appreciate, respect and in turn protect natural environments.

To get started, I recommend you simply chat up your local tackle shop staffer. Most anglers love to see new people join the sport, and they’ll do as much as they can to help you get started. Then, peruse your provincial/state fishing regulations, as they also serve as a great “fishable waters directory,” along with providing important legal info. If you’re really unsure, you can always hire a guide — but many areas have fishing lakes stocked with catchable species, such as trout, and facilities like fishing piers so you don’t even have to rent a boat. Good luck!

Top Fishing Spot: Great Bear Lake, Northwest Territories

4. Canoeing

Pierre Trudeau did it. Tom Thompson did it (although don’t follow his lead…). If there’s anything more Canadian than paddling a canoe along a wilderness lake, I don’t know what it is. Canoes could be the perfect watercraft — they glide silently and efficiently atop the water, cutting a delicate swath that hardly disturbs the fish beneath or the loons above. A single paddler can cover great distances in a day via canoe — but two is always better, and safer, than one. Plus, rather than labour-intensive inflatable boats that are so popular, canoes need only be lifted from your vehicle’s roof and plopped lakeside and they’re ready to roll… er… float.

Bowron Lakes, and the Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit, near the Central Mountain Air destination of Quesnel, is one of Western Canada’s great canoeing destinations. However, with the whole circuit requiring 100 km of paddling plus 11 km of portage, you’ll want to be prepared. Train hard, get the gear and supplies and recruit a hardy partner (or group). This is the real backcountry — with all the beauty and consequence therein.

Top Canoe Spot: Algonquin Park, Ontario

edmonton-cycle

Edmonton and the surrounding area has unlimited opportunities for cycle touring.

5. Cycle Touring

A special feeling overtakes you when you arrive at your destination via muscle-power. And your heart, lungs and overall health will appreciate the sweat equity you’ve invested. Cycle touring, whether simple day trips or multi-week excursions, is a wonderful way to experience our world. Today, in the Jet Age, we can blindly traverse a dozen time zones in a few hours — cycle touring is the antithesis of this. Transport is slowed down. You quite literally smell the roses as you pass, feel the subtle changes in temperature as the sun hides behind a cloud, enjoy down-slopes and work hard on inclines. You don’t just see your surroundings — you smell them, feel them and taste them.

And the best thing? After you ride a bicycle all day long, you can eat as decadent a dinner as you want.

The good-quality touring bicycles required for long distance touring are not cheap, but it’s easy to start out on a simple rig for afternoon trips of a few dozen kilometres. Even rides in your local area will have you uncovering new sights, roads and routes you’ve never noticed before as you whizzed by in your car, sheltered from the world. You’ll be amazed how far you can pedal in a afternoon… remember, you’re not racing anyone. Pace yourself, stay hydrated and enjoy the ride.

Top Cycle Touring Spot: Edmonton, Alberta

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About the author: David Webb is a Vancouver, BC-based travel writer, photographer and magazine editor.

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