Barrie’s Stella Gan third in Carolina Cup SUP competition

Stella Gan didn’t set out to compete, she took up standing paddle board, she said, because she loved being on the waters of Kempenfelt Bay.

On April 21, Gan earned a spot on the podium at the Carolina Cup, the first event of the season on the east coast of SUP athletes.

The cup takes place at Wrightsville Beach, N.C., with over 400 paddlers competing on five courses.
“The Carolina Cup is tough,” Gan said. “You have the best of the best there.”

Aside from the top athletes, Gan said, even when she returned from North Carolina the bay was still too frozen to go out on.

Heading down a week early to practice, Gan pulled off a third place spot in the three-and-a-half mile Harbor Island Race for women ages 18 to 49, on a 14-foot Blackfish board by Infinity SUP.

“I’m not known in the circuit,” Gan said.
To stay in shape through the winter, Gan said she relies on dry land training like running or spending time in the gym, but she’s had the opportunity to train at the elite training centre, EXOS in Carlsbad, Calif. where athletes from the NBA, NHL and NFL train.

But Gan’s SUP career wasn’t always elite training and competition.

“Paddling was just a once in a while thing,” Gan said. “I’d rent a board and do some fitness classes on a board.”

Over time, she became more invested and started taking Paddlefit courses through Northern SUP improving her technique.

“I started enjoying paddling more because I was paddling properly,” Gan said. “It was little things, no different than improving your golf swing. Once I learned the proper technique I started seeing the benefit.”

Last summer, Gan said she trained pretty hard, paddling four miles in under an hour on a regular basis. This year, she said she’s working toward five miles.
As early as May, Gan is out on the bay, at her level, she said there’s no chance of falling in.

“Failure is not an option,” Gan said.
But for beginner paddlers, failure is more of an option, said Brent Ackland, owner of Northern SUP and a full-time fitness coach.

“When you’re learning, falling in is fun,” Ackland said. “You’re finding the boundaries.”
Ackland organizes a weekly SUP meet up at Centennial Beach.
In previous years, Ackland offered technique workshops at the meet up, but this year the goal is just to paddle and socialize.

“We want to encourage people to do the sport,” Ackland said.
Ackland said the sport was a great low-impact way to stay in shape without having to go to a gym.

“It’s not about being fast or racing, it’s about efficiency,” Ackland said.
With proper technique, it’s a core workout, but for beginners the health benefits may be less apparent.

Northern SUP Social Paddle and Team Training will offer a complimentary one-hour SUP fitness training session at Centennial Beach. Participants are expected to provide their own board, paddle, and personal flotation device. All levels are welcome.

More information is available at



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