Brandon Olsthoorn Co-Owner Bow Valley Stand Up Paddleboarding and Surf
The water has always had a magnetic draw for me. In 2010, I caught the travel and surf bug. The challenge of a new sport in a foreign country was incredibly alluring to me and I became obsessed.
After my trip was complete, I arrived back in the Bow Valley and was immediately on the hunt for surfing related activities. My sister told me about Stand Up Paddleboarding and for a cool first adventure, we decided to paddle from Banff to Canmore. With no one to ask advice back then, it’s quite possible we broke a few safety rules. We did, however, make it back in one piece and I was instantly hooked. From that moment, I searched for companies offering SUP and SURF services. Realizing there were very limited options I decided to start Bow Valley Stand Up Paddleboarding. It was important to me to be able to offer sound advice with regards to safety, gear and information on the local area. As with most businesses we started off small, renting out boards from the back of my 2004 Volkswagon Jetta, at a low price point. To this day we are firm believers that money should not be a barrier of entry to people wanting to try the sport.
An integral step to being a leader in the industry was enrolling in Paddle Canada courses lead by Norm Hamm and Neil Gibson, two pioneers of the sport in Canada. In a short period of time the sport grew and so did our business! For 6 years we had a shop on Main Street in Canmore, renting boards and chatting with locals and visitors each and every day. When COVID hit in the early part of 2020, we had to come up with a new plan. Difficult situations often create great opportunities and hence our mobile service was launched. With the outpouring of community support, we were voted 2020 SUP SHOP Of The Year. To win this award was such a huge honour! Organizing virtual paddle races, helping to build the ever-growing river surf community as well as providing top quality products and service to the community are just some of the reasons we stood out to win this award.
Just as my sister introduced me to SUP 10 years ago, my goal is to bring as many people as possible into this incredibly fun-filled world of paddle boarding.
Julie Chang, Heart of BVSUP
In the summer 2014 I started working at Bow Valley SUP with Brandon. We became best friends who grew this business from a small operation that rented board from the back of Brandon's car to SUP Shop of the Year in 2020! The water, people and community that I have been apart of for the past 8 summers are remarkable. I treat each and every customer like a friend and I am so happy to introduce new comers to such an amazing sport of SUP. The smiles on all our guests faces is worth everything. Brandon will always be my best friend.
Ryan Hamilton, Co-Owner Bow Valley Stand Up Paddleboarding and Surf
I grew up in Montreal where I learned how to paddle while on summer canoe trips trips with my dad. Water has always been one of my passions, having spent the majority of my teenage years on competitive swim teams. In 2011 I moved out west and immediately fell in love with the sport of SUP, growing my knowledge of the sport and expanding my certifications. I have been teaching and guiding for the past 7 years with Bow Valley SUP and became a co-owner of the business in 2019. My favourite places to SUP are along the Icefield Parkway in Banff National Park. Pretty much anywhere in the Bow Valley is sure to not disappoint.
Sue Shih, Lead Instructor
I fell in love with SUP while I was recovering from a knee surgery 7 years ago. I love the variety of workouts it provides, as well as the serenity of being out in the elements. I can’t quite pick a place where I love to paddle the most; I think any day on the water is a good day.
Marc Lomas, Guide
Marc grew up in the small prairie town of Lamont, Alberta, which backs onto Elk Island National Park. His father was an avid Canoer and outdoorsman who passed along his love of water, paddling and the adventure of the outdoors to Marc at a very young age. With the availability of lakes in the nearby national park, Marc’s earliest memories are of gliding along in a canoe watching bison, elk, minnows, tadpoles and pelicans.
Now, having lived in Banff National Park since 2003, Marc’s love of paddling has shifted to Paddle boarding. The ability to get to remote locations and the packability of inflatable boards attracted him to the rapidly growing sport. His love of paddling Mountain lakes and rivers is infectious and he loves sharing this passion with anyone from first timers to experienced technicians.
Maggie Mills, Lead Instructor
Many years ago, secretly wrapped and placed under the Xmas tree was my first paddle. I thought it was a pizza paddle. We had been talking about building a pizza oven in our backyard and although it was super long, I didn’t know any better. That was the beginning of a beautiful relationship not only with this ‘pizza’ paddle but my first board; a stunning, yellow Naish. I had absolutely no idea how to hold the paddle, stand on the board or most importantly, move in a straight line. But I was eager to learn so I asked questions, watched videos and played. I found out pretty quickly how cold the water was. Fast forward to 2019 when I took the Paddle Canada course for Stand Up Paddling. It was here I really learned how to paddle and was more often than not, totally out of my comfort zone. That said, it was during this course that I truly realized how much I loved this sport. Connecting with Bow Valley SUP was the icing on the cake. Brandon and Ryan welcomed me into their SUP world and showed me the ropes. The summer of 2019 was just a wee dip into teaching and guiding tours. Now 2020, that was a full-on adventure! No matter what the pandemic threw at BV SUP, they were there to make the very best of the situation. And man, was it fun! So it looks as though I’m in this for the long run. Outside of paddling, I coach at the Bow Valley Crossfit gym in Banff as well as Crossfit Canmore. These two sports compliment each other incredibly well. Crossfit has, without a doubt, helped with the strength and fitness it takes to paddle. On the personal side I also have three kids who are eager for most any adventure including skiing, biking, horseback riding and pretty much anything to do with the mountains. They challenge me every day to be happy, healthy ....and crazy. Here’s to lots of memorable times ahead.
David Manning, Guide/Instructor
I was canoe tripping since before I was big enough to hold a paddle and has spent much of my life on the water ever since. Highlights include competing at World Junior Champs as a member of the National Jr Whitewater Slalom team, later coaching the National Team around Europe, Australia and North America, a nine day float-plane access canoe trip on part of the David Thompson route in Northern Saskatchewan, hunting for river surf waves, taking students on multi-day paddling trips as a Mid-High School Outdoor Education teacher in Calgary and especially working for Bow Valley SUP! The rise of popularity of paddleboarding has been such a fun and exciting way to teach people of all ages river safety and how to have incredible adventures on the water.
Spencer, Lead Foreman
Four summers years ago I was introduced to Bow Valley Sup. It was only my third time paddling but I absolutely fell in love with the sport. Brandon then gave me an opportunity to work with his crew and I’ve been addicted to the water ever since. Truthfully I already knew I loved the water as I am a competitive swimmer but I now know how amazing it feels to be out on a lake or river on a sup. I’m looking forward to my second summer meeting great people and helping others fall in love with the sport.
Damien Mills, Lead Team Motivator
I have been paddling for over a decade in and around Canmore, the National Parks and Vancouver Island. I am happy to show anyone Bow Valley SUPs backyard. Teaching and leading groups for Bow Valley SUP since being certified by Paddle Canada a couple of years ago has been an experince of a lifetime.