Tired of waterskiing and wakeboarding? For those looking for something a bit more (or maybe a bit less) challenging, there are plenty of other ways to get your thrills and spills on the water. (Don’t worry, wiping out is often half the fun!) From leisurely paddleboards to extreme jetpacks, here are a few unique watersports that will have you itching to get on the lake.
Although very similar to (and often confused with) wakeboarding, skurfing has one difference that makes it immensely more challenging: with skurfing, there are no bindings to keep your feet attached to the board. As such, controlling the board requires much more skill as you’re being towed along. It’s not exactly a new sport—skurfing was popular back in the 80s—but it’s worth revisiting if you want to really test your wake riding skills. Wakeboarding actually evolved out of skurfing; bindings were added for control and the boards were reshaped to today’s wakeboards for better stability and softer jump landings.
Dream of surfing ocean swells but you’re too far from the sea? Cue up the Beach Boys and try wakesurfing—the inland version of the iconic coastal sport. Wakesurfers follow along behind a wakeboard boat, surfing the wake, but unlike with wakeboarding (and similar to skurfing), the surfer’s feet are not attached to the board. In fact, wakesurfers aren’t even towed; they typically get up with the help of the tow rope, but stay much closer to the boat and drop the rope once they catch the wake.
Another wakeboarding spin-off is wakeskating. It’s also similar to skurfing in that the rider is not bound to the board, however, the board’s surface is covered with either grip tape or a high-traction foam that enables riders to go barefoot if they choose. Wakeskates are much smaller than wakeboards and are more comparable to their namesake, the skateboard. One of the advantages of wakeskating is that it doesn’t require the large wake needed for wakeboarders looking to tackle tricks and jumps. As such, wakeskaters can be towed by smaller boats and even a jetski.
Using a kayak for fishing has become popular in recent years for those who want to access more remote regions of water. Easy to launch, store, and maintain, kayaks are a good choice for people who don’t want to deal with motors and are looking for a more serene, back-to-nature fishing experience. Some manufacturers, such as Hobie and Old Town, are customizing kayaks for anglers, adding built-in coolers, storage hulls, rod holders, and mounts for electronics. Many also offer wide beams for better stability and “lawn-chair”-style seats, providing more comfort for long days on the water.
Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP)
Stand-up paddleboarding (or SUPing) is incredibly trendy right now, reaching far beyond cottage country. Many waterfront cities offer paddleboard classes, and it’s not unusual to see people SUPing along their city’s harbour before heading off to work. The sport involves the rider balancing on a surfboard (either while kneeling or standing) and using an oar to push themselves along. Since no waves are required—unless you really want to challenge yourself—it’s the ideal sport for practically any body of water. It’s also a great core workout.
They sound like something out of The Jetsons, but water jetpacks do exist in the here and now. Riders are strapped into a backpack-like contraption that attaches to a personal watercraft with a fire hose. Water is suctioned up through the hose and pushed out through the jetpack’s nozzles, lifting the rider right out of the water and pushing them as high as 30 feet in the air.
If jetpacking is a little too ho-hum for you, you can opt for the newest variation known as flyboarding. Instead of wearing the jetpack on your back, the flyboard straps to your feet, enabling you to basically “surf” through the air. If you get really good at it, you can even dive under the water before popping back up to the sky like a dolphin. Plenty of places offer rental “flights” (Rick Mercer tested a flyboard at a site in Alberta), and some rental shops will also allow you to purchase your own flyboard kit to-go.