TAKING SUP TO NEW HEIGHTS:
INTERVIEW WITH SUE SHIH
Interview and photos by Dan Evans
Stand up paddleboarding has quickly grown to be a favourite past-time for water lovers in the Canadian Rockies. But one early adopter has started to venture past the roadside lakes, often lacing up her hiking boots to carry her SUP into backcountry regions. Dan Evans interviews Sue Shih about the appeal of venturing off the beaten track.
There’s no denying that, in a short time, stand up paddleboarding (SUP) has quickly grown to be an essential part of water culture and has spread far from its roots in Waikiki – all the way to the icy waters of the Canadian Rockies. It’s not uncommon now to see dozens of SUP boards floating on mountain lakes on a warm weekend. Local companies, such as the Banff Canoe Club have come on board, adding SUPs to their fleet of boats available for rental, and at Bow Valley SUP you can also learn to SUP thanks to their passionate crew of paddlers.
One of the early adopters of the sport in the Bow Valley has been Banff local Sue Shih. Most days, Sue can be found paddling on the lakes and rivers and spreading her love of the sport through her awesome Instagram hashtag, #howsueshihrolls. Her passion is contagious, and companies like Boardworks have brought her on as an ambassador.
After a few years of SUPing the easy-access and iconic lakes like Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, Sue wanted to do something different and take SUP to backcountry lakes that required a mix of hiking and paddling (paddleering?). I caught up with Sue to find out more about what drives her to push SUP to new places.
Dan Evans/ Why do you push the limits of where SUP is being done in the area?
Sue Shih/ It’s something new, like backcountry skiing. You see a line and say ‘I wanna ski that’. I asked myself, what can I do with this, where can it go? It’s a challenge and a commitment, and something not everyone is doing.
DE/ What are some of the lakes you’ve paddled in the backcountry?
SS/ I’ve paddled on Lake O’Hara, Consolation Lakes, Sherbrooke Lake and Iceberg Lake. The Iceberg Lake day was a beast! I had to scramble up loose rocks for hours with the inflatable on my back, but it was worth it! I slid down most of the scree on the way down on my bum.
DE/ What’s the payoff for you of getting out on a high alpine lake? What motivates you?
SS/ Mostly self-satisfaction. There is a checklist in my head, and I just want to check them off one-by-one. The biggest pay off is the view, and a different way to see the lake than everyone else.
Sue owns three boards, two of which are inflatable, which allows her to hike them into backcountry lakes. This fall, she plans to get out to Larch Valley and try a few more all-season paddle spots in the winter. Having joined her on several paddle hikes, I am excited to see where Sue continues to push her SUP adventures that keep her peaceful paddles fresh and inspire others to get on the water.
Adventurer, cinematographer, photographer and father, Dan Evans is constantly following good times and peeking around corners for the next journey.