I’ve always loved hiking, it’s my favourite way to explore the wild beauty of British Columbia. Every time we come across a body of water, there’s a high chance someone with their paddle board is enjoying the place from the perspective of the water. I’ve always been envious of them. I wanted so badly to explore beyond the shore but I’ve always held back, mostly because I wear hearing aids. Water + hearing aids don’t pair well together, so I would have to go deaf if I wanted to go in the water.
Well, at 49 years old, I am learning to let go of my limitations. I want to paddle board, so I am going to paddle board.
Better yet? I can enhance my hiking experience by bringing along my paddle board to beautiful secluded beaches in BC.
iRocker Paddle BoardVIEW PADDLE BOARD
Beginners Guide to Hiking with a Lightweight Paddle Board
Taking The Plunge Into Paddle Boarding
So my search for a paddle board began. As I mentioned, I am a complete beginner, so I wanted to make it as easy as possible for me to feel comfortable with this new activity. Here’s where I landed on my wish list:
It needed to be lightweight
- This was super important for me because I’m not the strongest gal around and wanted to be sure that I could lug the thing up and down the trail.
We wanted an electric pump vs manual
- This is a major advantage for anyone that wants to inflate and deflate their SUP quickly. It was particularly important for me because back to the strength part, I was already exerting energy on the hike, I wanted to conserve energy for the paddle and return trip.
It had to be stable
- I’m a complete beginner, so I need all the stability I can get from a paddle board.
- I also had the hope that one day, our dog Brandy could come along and join us for the ride – believe me when I say that she wouldn’t appreciate a rickety ride any more than I would!
It had to be easy to use
- As much as I wanted to try paddle boarding, I didn’t want to spend hours trying to figure the process out. I was already nervous and thought that picking a complex board would simply worsen my anxiety around the process.
- We wanted the process of unpacking and setting up the board to be as fast and easy as possible to maximize our time spent enjoying the water.
We landed with an iRocker Paddle Board
As Steve and I were researching paddle boards as a way to further deepen our exploration of the wild beauty of BC, iRocker Canada reached out to us for a potential collaboration. We wanted a way to explore BC lakes from a different perspective and they had a wonderful solution.
Once we dug deeper into the brands available in the marketplace, it became clear that iRocker stands out as a leader in the lightweight inflatable paddle board market for good reason. They sent us a paddle board so we could experience it for ourselves.
From our conversation with them, the iRocker All Around 10 Ultra seemed to be the best lightweight inflatable paddle board for our needs with a great backpack for hiking.
Once it arrived, I was impressed from the moment we removed the paddle board from the box. It was completely ready to go, featured less plastic and cardboard than competing options, and the backpack was said to be 50% smaller and 30% lighter than previous iterations of the product.
Now, all I had to do was jump in my vehicle, hit the trails, and try it out!
Cosens Bay: Paddle Board Paradise
There are so many beautiful places to paddle board in British Columbia. We are fortunate to live in the Okanagan with access to many of the best paddling boarding lakes, our favourite being Kalamalka Lake.
Cosens Bay is one of our favourite Kalamalka Beaches because it is a lot quieter than others with soft sand and glimmering turquoise waters. However, you can only access this area by hiking, biking, or boating.
How to get to Cosens Bay on Kalamlka Lake
There are two ways to get to Cosens Bay and it really depends on what you are looking for in your hiking experience to decide which route makes the most sense.
The first route (and our favourite) is parking at the Kalamalka Main Parking Lot and taking the Grassland Trail to Cosens Bay from the 2nd parking lot. This trail is shorter than the second option at about 1.9K and takes about 40 mins. It offers amazing lake views through lovely trees. The trail is fairly flat for the first half and then goes into a steep descent on your way down and a rigorous climb on your way back.
The second trail starts at the Kalamalka Cosens Bay Parking Lot. This trail is 3.5K with more of a steady descent/ascent through mostly grassland with some trees and not as many lake views, but lovely valley views. It took us about an hour.
I much prefer a shorter big push hike than a drawn-out steady climb. And, I love the lake views on the first route.
Hiking with an Inflatable Paddle Board
I had a really hard time finding a hiking backpack that fit me for our bigger hikes. I have a short torso, so bigger packs can be tricky to fit properly. I LOVE my Osprey Sirrus 36 pack and have packed 100’s of kilometers with it, so I am used to how that feels.
When I first threw the iRocker backpack on my back, I was surprised at how light it was considering it carried a paddle board, accessories, water, and snacks! I love the padding on the back side of the pack. We learned that it needs to be packed well, otherwise, there can be protrusion that creates uneven and uncomfortable weight distribution.
If you plan on carrying the pack a few hundred meters to your destination, it will be a walk in the park. If you plan on going on more than a few kilometers to the lake, we found these considerations would improve the pack to create more comfort on longer distances:
- The chest strap could be vertically adjustable. As I said, I am hard to fit. An adjustable chest strap to fit your torso with a longer strap for breadth would make it an overall more comfortable fit for longer distances.
- A hip belt would make a huge difference. I love the hip belt on my Osprey, so I am used to carrying the weight on my hips. The entire weight of the iRocker bag is on my shoulders, and I found myself trying to relieve the weight by lifting it up with my hands occasionally.
Still, it is absolutely doable for me to carry it for 2-3K one way. Anything longer than 6K in one day (once you lump it in with the energy exertion of a paddle) might start to be a little too much for my ability. Perhaps I’m not the fittest 49-year-old, so this might be irrelevant for fitter folks.
Shorter Summer Hikes, Longer Paddles in the Water
Increasing my fitness level is one of the reasons I wanted to get into paddle boarding. I don’t hike as far in the heat of the Okanagan summers and wanted to find something to keep me moving while not overheating.
Beyond the hike in and back, paddle boarding offers an amazing physical workout. I am also drawn to paddle boarding for the meditative effects.
Dr. Wallace J. Nichols is a marine biologist in California who studies the effects of water on the mind in his book Blue Mind. Supposedly, being near water will “calm out overactive minds while it imbues our senses”, which is a scientific way of saying that humans are instinctively drawn to beaches, lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water for their mental health!
“I wondered whether water is a mirror for our darker emotions as much as it is an engine for our happiness. Water quiets all the noise, all the distractions, and connects you to your own thoughts.”
If that wasn’t reason enough to grab your paddleboard, evidence suggests that being immersed in water boosts blood flow to the brain, and improves glucose, oxygen, and nutrient levels that each directly contribute to positive brain health.
Oh, and if you still need convincing, it’s said that simply being in the water triggers the parasympathetic nervous system which allows your body to relax and destress.
And hey, as the colour blue is also said to have a calming effect on the mind you can’t beat just looking at the stuff!
iRocker All Around 10 Ultra Paddle Board
Unloading the iRocker Paddle Board, you will find it has a drop-stitch construction and double-fold design. Not only does the stitching improve durability and result in a more rigid board without adding extra weight, but the board folds perfectly providing minimal effort when packing or removing the board from the bag.
I found that the bag held the electric pump, a repair kit, a deconstructed paddle, and all our snacks and water bottles for the day. Oh, and it also kept everything uber-organized, which was extremely useful.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, the combination of a removable cargo bungee and an action mount allows you to carry everything you’ll need for a successful day on the water.
iRocker Paddle Board Set Up is Easier and Quicker with an Electric Pump
You might think the iRocker 12-volt electric pump and battery add a little extra weight to your hike, however, we were surprised to learn that the electric pump provides an overall lighter pack with a smaller footprint.
Although we weren’t watching the time, we feel it took under 10 mins to pump up our board to 15psi. The unit automatically stops once it reaches the set psi.
Bonus! You can also use the pump to deflate the board, saving even more time and energy.
The iRocker electric pump comes standard with your purchase, and the battery is a must-have add-on if you are planning on hiking to your destination.
iRocker went from a 3-fin system to a 2-fin system to accommodate the more compact double fold while maintaining maneuverability by increasing the length of the fins to 9″. They snap easily into place using a tether lock so you don’t lose your fins out on the water.
Also included in your bag, is a lightweight carbon fiber paddle that assembles with ease. I struggled to size the paddle properly with 2 additional notches remaining, but couldn’t get it down far enough. Likely a newbie user error. 🙄
One tip I learned as a beginner paddle boarder was to always hold your paddle so the rib faces forward.
Beginner Paddle Boarding Tips
I was so nervous! As I mentioned before, I have stayed away from the water for so long because of my hearing aids. I was worried that I would hate feeling deaf. Secondly, my hearing affects my balance a little, so I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to stay stable and it would be nothing but a big flop.
I watched this “How to Paddle Board for Beginners” video
20 times first before I went. I also watched this one and this one and this one and…. well – you get the gist.
The main takeaways I got? Keep your eyes on the horizon and stay in motion.
In fact, little backstory behind-the-scenes secret…
I’m one who likes to “test the waters” first, so to speak. I took the board out with a friend before we decide to put in the effort to hike to Cosens Bay. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to actually stand up and achieve some kind of forward motion. She has a bigger board and said, “Why don’t you try mine first? It’s bigger, so it will be more stable.”
I did. I got on her board, paddled for a while on my knees, and decided to try and stand up. I was super wobbly, but I didn’t fall. I was shocked. So, I got on mine, totally ready to fall in because it was smaller, and image that – I stayed standing yet again. Even my friend said that mine felt just as stable but lighter and faster than hers.
With this confidence tucked in my pocket, I went for it.
So back to the story. Here I am, hiked in, board blown up, and ready to go for it.
Short story? I LOVE it. I can absolutely stay standing, but I am still learning how to maneuver the board quickly. This can be tricky if the water is busy and you need to navigate around swimmers and other paddlers. But I’ll get there with practice.
I stayed close to shore on this first day, but I can’t wait to venture out to explore rocky crags, cliff faces, and other secluded beaches on Kalamalka Lake. For those days, I have a paddle boarding PFD from MEC just to be safe. We also bought this dry bag for longer paddles.
What To Wear Paddle Boarding
Sadly, this was one of the areas that caused me the most grief when getting into paddle boarding and it all came down to body image, for me. Regardless of what age we are, body image seems to be a narrative that threads its way through our entire life.
First, I found a bathing suit I thought I loved, but the girls felt like they might fall out if I fell in. Then, I thought I would just wear a tank top, but I felt frumpy at nearly 50.
Sigh. I sat with myself and gave myself a good talking to. I shared with some friends that I needed to re-write the story I tell myself…
“Regardless of how I feel about how I look, I need to go out there *anyway* because that’s where life lives – on the lake. Who cares what it looks like. Go out there not because of how it looks, but because of how it feels. Live to feel amazing not to look amazing.”
I was proud of that statement. I thought I was doing the good hard work around body image. Until my friend, Janis Isaman challenged my perspective with:
“Our culture bombards us not only with messages and images that what matters most is our bodies, but also that they must be smooth, trim, and curvy in just the right way. Then we are sold the message that the solution to this systemic issue is personal: we are to change our thoughts, journal, meditate and find personal “confidence”. It doesn’t reside in our heads, it resides in our culture.”
Wow. This will take a while to have its way with me. I dove deep into the links she shared which led me to understand this topic can’t be fully contemplated or appreciated in one short chapter. Read these if you are as intrigued as I am:
- The Objectification of Women in Mass Media: Female Self-Image in Misogynist Culture
- From Marilyn Monroe to Crawford: A Historical Analysis of Women’s Body Image Depicted in Popular Magazines from 1952 to 1995
- Media’s Portrayal of Women and its Impact on Body Image and Self-Esteem
In the meantime, I found something super comfortable, functional, and supportive of the girls, and just went paddle boarding.
And I freaking loved it.
Just Go Paddle Boarding
As we mentioned earlier, iRocker Canada provided the paddle board for this story. We encourage you to do your own research, but we love our iRocker board and highly recommend purchasing one for yourself. Maybe there are other options that suit your paddle boarding needs better, so make sure to explore their website and compare models based on your activities.
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