winter paddling toronto

Someone is paddling Toronto's rivers before they freeze for the winter

A Toronto man finds peace and beauty paddling rivers and Lake Ontario even as the snow falls and waterways begin to freeze.

Jeff Holubeshen says he has been plying Toronto waters in a dragon boat, outrigger canoe or kayak for about 20 years but discovered winter paddling about six years ago.

"So at the beginning, everyone thought it was kind of crazy," Holubeshen says. "My wife was like, 'What are you doing? You're crazy. Why are you doing this?'"

But after seeing how beautiful winter outrigger canoeing can be, she has started joining him, he says.

"When you're out there, it's not about getting a good workout, it's just about being out on the water and enjoying it."

This year the winter snowfalls have made it even more enjoyable.

"We didn't have a lot of snow last year so it's kind of been awesome this year because you've got this thick, heavy snow coming down, and it makes for great pictures."

winter paddling toronto

A paddle on a snowy day can be beautiful.

Last weekend, a snowfall made for a beautiful paddle down the Humber River. He expects the river may freeze over soon but parts of Lake Ontario stay free of ice for much longer. Last winter he and his friends were able to keep paddling all winter long. The area around The Beaches stayed free of ice last year.

Holubeshen has noticed more people paddling during the warmer months of the year since lockdowns started.

"This summer, it's just exploded. It's awesome."

winter paddling toronto

Some places on Lake Ontario remain ice free during the winter — depending on the year.

The appeal of winter paddling hasn't caught on as much.

"You get days where you're the only ones on water and it's so enjoyable, just you paddle out, do maybe like nine or 10k for an hour and a half or so — it's a nice start to your day."

But winter paddling isn't for everyone and you need the right gear. Holubeshen says a dry suit is necessary once the water temperature goes below 10 C.

There is the chance of hitting a slab of ice and possibly damaging your boat but hypothermia is the biggest risk. Wearing a dry suit will keep you warm and protected.

"You have to talk to the right people to make sure you're wearing the right stuff."

winter paddling toronto

The right gloves and other gear will protect you from frostbite and hypothermia.

He suggests shops such as Paddle Sport Performance or Surf the Greats can help people find the right gear. Even though you may not fall in, people need to wear gear that will keep them warm and dry in the water.

"As long as you're prepared, and you're wearing gear, and thinking that you're going to be in the water, then then you're good," he says.

Photos by

Jeff Holubeshen

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