You can kayak in the winter, too

Scott Barkemeyer // Nautical Enthusiast

Winter and kayaking may not seem to be compatible, but do we really have even winter here in Vancouver? The answer is no.

Kayaking has long been a part of my life and I received my Flatwater Kayak Instructor Certification as a teenager in Northern Alberta. It was during the spring, when lakes were no longer predominantly frozen and ice was left to the far side of the water. We would rent local pools to simulate rescues, as doing them in the lakes would have only led to hypothermia.

Paddling has been an activity I have enjoyed since the first time I got on the water. While some might question paddling in harsh weather, some of the most fun I have had in a kayak was in storm waters with my mother when I first moved to the Sunshine Coast. I have guided a voyager canoe to camp with three others during a downpour at dusk – an expedition that forced us to wait for lightning to subside – in order to safely escort campers back to our main camp. I have been used as a pack mule with an overloaded boat while I was on herding duties and ensured campers didn’t stray off from the group.

For the most part, these were summer activities. Being from landlocked Alberta, you may be surprised that almost all our lakes are covered in ice for half the year. People sit in an ice fishing shack on a frozen lake on their weekends. Since relocating, I haven’t paddled as much as I would like as my boats are lake boats and are sequestered away in my parents’ garden shed.

However, since our local water is largely connected to the ocean, it means that it does not freeze over during BC’s winters – meaning paddling can be done year-round.

Although rentals are closed for the season, you can get your paddle on if you have private access to a boat. You can also book a Saturday tour with Deep Cove Kayak and enjoy a relaxing guided paddle that will allow you to explore the local waters of the Lower Indian Arm.

The water may be a little chilly, but you probably won’t see any solid ice on your paddle. The crisp air and quiet waters will allow participants to enjoy the serenity of being in nature and learn local history from the guide.

A Winter Kayak Tour at Deep Cove Kayak goes for $89+tax per person. Reservations are required, as tours are organized in small groups. On the day of, pack an extra set of warm clothes for after your paddle, a towel, a wool toque (something everyone should own), snacks, water, sunglasses with a strap, and your camera or phone in a waterproof case.

If you are worried about the cold, remember the wetsuit rental is included and your personal floatation device (PFD) is warmer than you think. Most importantly, if you do decide to go out, make sure you plan and have the correct safety gear and training, getting stranded in cold waters is no joke.

So, what is stopping you? Try something new. You never know you may find a new hobby and build a future with kayaks in it.

One Comment

  1. Hey Scott, thanks writing and encouraging folks to get out paddling in the winter. I love putting on my spray-skirt and creating that pocket of warmth within my kayak to explore our shorelines. I’m not sure if you’re aware of it already but you can still rent a kayak at Ecomarine on Granville Island, year round, 7 days a week. Same dress for winter advice applies and wetsuits are available to rent as well. Cheers, Rose

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