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Competing Indoors: The Toronto Indoor Boat Show SUP Race

Toronto Indoor Boat Show SUP Race

EDITOR’S NOTE:  We asked Canadian paddler and Paddle Monster athlete Kirsty MacMillan to share her experiences competing at the Toronto Indoor Boat Show race recently. Here is her recap. Cover photo: Jeff Holubeshen

If you’re looking for a truly unique Stand Up Paddleboard race in the middle of a Canadian winter when it’s usually -10C outdoors… the Toronto Indoor Boat Show race is for you!  Held in the world’s largest indoor water pool, it is a fun filled day of SUP racing that has so many benefits.  It’s a great way to help your community showcase our sport and the skill it takes to paddle with great technique and speed.  Smack dab in the middle of the winter blues it is the best way to reconnect with paddling friends that you might not otherwise see until summer. And it is also a fun way to gauge how your off season training is going (or a great reminder to get at it)!  For those who aren’t into winter paddling and have a drysuit, this race is a fun chance to get on the water for a day. 

Photo: Jeff Holubeshen

I arrived at Exhibition Place in Toronto early Saturday morning feeling unusually light… I only had to bring my paddle and PFD.  The race organized by Northline Sports and also sponsored by Starboard was providing everyone with brand new top of the line Starboard Airline 12’6 inflatable boards to race on. We had a quick chance to get on the water to try out the board before the race heats started at 10:00. All racers needed to have some experience as there were limited spots available, and each race had a course set out that was 3 laps of the lake around the wakeboard features and included at least 5 buoy turns.  There were 3 heats of men and 2 heats of women racing, followed by semifinals and finals.  The heats were spread out through the day as there were other water activities going on as well, which was nice to give everyone a bit of a rest before the next race.  

Photo: Jordan-na Belle-Isle

 The “Indoor Lake” as it’s called is actually a hockey rink that the farm team for the Toronto Maple Leafs play on, filled with ice cold water straight from Lake Ontario.  So there are lots of seats in the stands for everyone to hang out and watch other races going on!  It’s a lot of fun to be able to see the entire race happen and to cheer everyone on! It’s best to go into this race with a fun attitude and not too serious… with a short course and so many buoy turns in a small space, anything can happen.  

The relay races were the big hit of the day… everyone loved it!  We had 3 teams of 6 paddlers, a mix of men and women, and each person did 1 lap of the course.  It was pure fun to cheer each other on with no pressure of feeling like a “race” at all. The crowd loved watching it too since it was so easy to see the whole course. 

 Photo: Melissa Warner

Big thank you to Steve Martin, Glen Buchanan, sponsors Northline Sports, Starboard, Toronto Windsurfing Club and the Toronto Indoor Boat Show for all your work putting this event together.  Hugh Wilson is there every year using his great actor-voice and MC’s the races to help explain what’s going on to spectators. This unique race has been running since 2017 (minus the covid years that we shall not talk about) and if you’re comfortable paddling on a board I highly recommend coming out next year to give it a try!  

 Photo: Jeff Holubeshen

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