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Calgary by kayak: Your guide to river recreation this summer

A local startup launching for the first time this summer wants to make it easier for Calgarians to enjoy the Bow via a raft or kayak

Metro kayaked the shortest route Paddle Station offers, from Prince’s Island Park to St. Patrick’s Island. Total time: 38 minutes. Difficulty level: beginner.

ELIZABETH CAMERON/FOR METRO

Metro kayaked the shortest route Paddle Station offers, from Prince’s Island Park to St. Patrick’s Island. Total time: 38 minutes. Difficulty level: beginner.

Glamping, but for kayaking.

That’s what self-described serial entrepreneur Ravi Thaker envisioned for Paddle Station, an recreation company that aims to make it easier for Calgarians to enjoy a float down the river by taking the hassle out of, well, the whole process.

Thaker said he started the business with one goal in mind: make it easier for the average Joe to get on the Bow.

“(Right now) it requires foresight – you need to think about it a couple days before,” Thaker said.

Not anymore – arrive at one of their docking points at Shouldice Park, Prince’s Island Park or St. Patrick’s Island and you’ll find a kayak or multi-person raft with everything you need for a successful trip on the water.

They supply a dry bag for electronics, water bottles, sunscreen, all the required safety equipment (including a bail bucket) and even shuttle you back to your car.

The Paddle Crew brought my kayak to the river's edge at Prince's Island Park.

ELIZABETH CAMERON/FOR METRO

The Paddle Crew brought my kayak to the river's edge at Prince's Island Park.

“We’ll outfit you, we’ll teach you about the safety, give you a (life jacket), and off you go,” Thaker said, adding he hopes to expand into Edmonton and other provinces in the future.

Acting Fire Chief Ken Uzeloc with the Calgary Fire Department (CFD) said Partners in Water Safety – a collaboration between the CFD, Calgary Police Service, and Community Standards focused on water safety education – is happy to coordinate with companies like Paddle Station, provided they are making sure users have the means to stay safe.

“If they’re taking the right safety precautions, providing the right equipment, and users are properly educated …. I think we’re all going to be in a good relationship,” Uzeloc said.

Last year, there were 62 rescues on Calgary waterways, according to the CFD.

Uzeloc said calls for help on swift water, mainly on the Bow River, increased 25 per cent in 2016 compared to 2015, but that’s likely because more people are on the water in general.

“We have a beautiful recreation area coming right through the middle of town and we’re a fairly young city … I think people are getting out and wanting to see this more and use it,” Uzeloc said. 

Make sure you’re prepared before heading out. No life-jacket? You’ll get slapped with a mandatory court appearance and up to $500 in fines. 

Expect to see plenty of patrols by police and peace officers this summer on the Bow.

JENNIFER FRIESEN/FOR METRO

Expect to see plenty of patrols by police and peace officers this summer on the Bow.

Community Standards Inspector Susan Wall said since Partners in Water Safety formed in 2009, they’ve seen a significant increase in the number of people wearing life-jackets on the water.

“Overall, we believe people are listening,” Hall said.

Calgarians can expect police and peace officers to be on the water enforcing the rules all summer long. And a reminder: no drugs or alcohol are allowed on the river, ever. 

“These substances impair judgment and reaction time,” said Uzelo. “While we can’t control the river, we can control our behaviours and preparedness when we venture out onto the water.”

Check local bylaws here.

Check flow levels here.

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