Toronto Island Sup is the place for stand up paddleboarding just a ferry ride away
Forget biking or kayaking, stand up paddleboarding has to be one of the best ways to see the chain of small islands that is Toronto Island.
Even if you've been to the island a hundred times before, exploring the waters of the inner harbour in and around the archipelago just across the lake from Toronto's downtown is an entirely new experience atop a paddleboard.
Toronto Island Stand Up Paddle Boarding (TISUP) has been offering island visitors lessons and rentals since 2014. If you've got some paddling experience and can swim, you can rent a board by the hour and take your very own self-guided tour.
For those with no experience at all, there are lessons available with one of the certified SUP instructors where you can learn proper techniques and get more comfortable on the board before embarking on your own adventure.
Although this was my first time paddling while standing up, we arrived near Algonquin Bridge on Ward's Island and the starting point for all TISUP-related activities, with our e-waivers signed for an hour's rental.
You can choose from one ($30 per person) to five hours ($70 per person) when you're renting a board. One hour gives you just about enough time to visit Sunfish Cut and Turtle Alley and leaves you with more than hours in the day to soak up some sun on one of the beaches afterward.
There's a brief screening before you're able to go on your way. But as long as you're able to swim should you fall overboard and you know the basics of paddling, SUP is a breeze even for first-timers.
Listen closely during the instructor's 10-minute spiel; learning how to safely stand up (start on your knees and from there plant your feet a bit forward on the board one at a time), stop, and turn around will help you on your journey.
Crystal is the staff member walking us through our first paddleboard experience on this particular Thursday afternoon and she's incredibly patient as we shakingly make our very first attempt to stand upright.
Balancing is easier than expected though. And after trying a few turns and stops by pushing the paddle back against the current, we're ready to go out into the open waters.
No matter how long you're planning on being on the water, every paddleboarder is directed to head west first toward Sunfish Cut. Even though you might've never heard that name before, you likely have a photo there at this scenic point from a past visit to the island.
Before reaching the photo-op, you'll be passing a number of boats and floating island homes docked along the shores of Algonquin Island across the calm lagoon from Ward's. It's fun to imagine what life is like for longtime islanders living in one of these and I've definitely never gotten this close-up on foot.
You've hit Sunfish Cut when the Toronto skyline comes perfectly into view. Although we're paddling on a quieter weekday, I can see this spot getting pretty congested with photo takers, even on the water, on the weekend. Good thing TISUP provides $1 dry bags to hold your phone.
Spend the majority of your time there snapping the perfect paddleboard picture or continue onwards to get to Turtle Alley. Journey under the footbridge to get to this area where you're likely to spot, you guessed it, turtles, as well as other wildlife.
The incredibly serene area is full of ducks (we're told the baby and teenage ones are particularly known to hop aboard so be ready), swans, and large bluegill, punkinseed, and yellow perch swimming by the weedy bays just under your board.
If you're looking to make the day of it, you could always pack a lunch to pop in a dry bag and pull up on one of the private spots along the shore to rest your arms and take in the view.
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