AQ Staff
4 minute read

My parting words were: I’ll never do that crazy white water stuff you do; as I left my advanced flat water instructor course…fast forward six days and there I was on white water. 

Part of the desire to complete my River 1 Skills is to be able to teach on the Athabasca River near my home. Something about a river has always appealed to me, perhaps growing up on the North Saskatchewan is part of it. The local river is a flat moving current with no features to paddle through until you start to get closer to the Grand Rapids Class VI+. 

My first river experience on true white water was being a student in a River 1 Instructor Class and this in itself is very different. I get to see what is required as I evolve through the levels to become an instructor. 

The river is a dangerous place without proper safety protocols, education and support. Often as I head out to paddle on the Athabasca River I am cautioned by a well-meaning passerby about the dangers. Mitigating risk is the number one priority on the river, often times this starts with wearing the proper PPE such as a PFD, helmet, along with a quick release leash and appropriate footwear.

Add in education with regards to hydrology and potential areas on the water that need to be avoided. This is imperative to understanding where you do and don’t belong on the river.

Support. Surround yourself with people who are skilled and can help you gain confidence. Sign up for a Paddle Canada course with Reta SUPS through AQ Outdoors. As you gain confidence and skill always paddle with someone on the river! Never head out alone.

Personally, I can attest to how addicting the river becomes. It is magic. I can also attest to the fact that it initially was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. Never having paddled or been on white water in any capacity it was a steep learning curve.

My legs shook, my heart rate soared just sitting beside the water. Why do I say this? Because often times we feel these effects and stop attempting what were about to do. Understanding that you can feel this way and still succeed is imperative in progressing within any new challenge in life. Ultimately the empowerment you feel succeeding on the water and overcoming it is thrilling!

Photo Credit: Ashley Voykin Photography

I cried my way through the first course, literally. Every day I cried about the challenge or fear with whatever I was trying to accomplish. Failing, and falling all played roles in each one of these days. The poor instructor candidates having to work around me; however they also got the experience of having a real student. 

Photo Credit: Ashley Voykin Photography

Learning to weight my foot downstream seemed so impossible as my body kept autonomously pressing down evenly….fall down seven, stand up eight.

Eventually it all started to come together and as I entered the River 2 Skills course my only goal was to feel less fear and not cry lol. The joy of feeling comfortable on the river is hard to describe and finally being able to complete so many skills that seemed impossible initially was invigorating. Reta SUPS has been so patient with me, allowing me to build confidence on the current.

Never did I ever think I’d be surfing river waves with some of the most inspiring women around but here I am and I will gladly share with anyone that is unsure whether they should try or not the many reasons why they should.  

Check out AQ Outdoors 2021 SUP Courses and start planning for next year!

If you get a chance, try it! You might even love it like I do now…

Photography by Ashley Voykin Photography Facebook

Instagram @ashvoykin

Happy paddling.

I Live Life Now,

Lisa Stocking


CSEP-CPT/RYT 200 Yoga Instructor

Advanced Flatwater SUP Instructor Paddle Canada

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