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Standing tall on Essex waters

Thursday, June 01, 2017

By: Natasha Marar, Business Advisor

There’s no shortage of boats on Windsor-Essex waters, but another sport is taking off from the shore.

Local businesses, such as South Surf Inc., Windsor Adventure Inc., Southbeach Water Sports, and SUP & Sun, have opened in recent years offering paddleboard instruction, rentals, and events, on Lake Eire and Lake St. Clair.

Sheila Rodger started South Surf Inc. in September 2016 after friends encouraged her to turn her hobby into a small business.  Rodger first took to the paddleboard as a meditative activity following the death of her husband.

“[Paddleboarding] was kind of my escape from the grief I was feeling.  And the moment I did paddleboard, I was hooked and it became a true passion of mine where I was doing it almost every day.”

Now, the high school teacher and certified Paddle Canada instructor is embarking on South Surf Inc.’s first full season.

Water enthusiasts can join Rodger at Cedar Island Beach in Kingsville throughout the summer.

Paddleboard is a sport suitable for all ages, and people can choose whether they want to sit or stand on the board.  Many of Rodger's customers are women who paddleboard for fitness or relaxation.  “It’s such a mental and physical sport. It’s so rewarding to the mind.”

“You’re in nature; you’re in the middle of the lake, or down a quiet creek. It’s so serene and calming,” she added.

South Surf Inc. offers one-on-one instruction, group events, such as wellness and yoga tours, and rentals for private parties and those with paddleboard experience.

“It’s not a hard sport … it’s super accessible,” said Rodger, adding that comfortability in the water is key.

Paddleboard fees range from $20 per hour for rentals, to $120 for a two-hour private lesson. With group events priced under $50, Rodger said paddleboarding is an affordable and rewarding challenge.

Rodger is excited to join other businesses in bringing paddleboarding to Windsor-Essex, and specifically to Kingsville’s waterfront.  “I don’t really look at them as competitors. I see it as we are building a tribe of people that are into being on the water.”

While planning her business, Rodger said she questioned her expectations and ability to reach her goals. “[I asked], ‘can I do this, physically and mentally?’ I feared I’m not strong enough, I’m not established. I guess the pleasant surprise is that everything happens slowly and [as an entrepreneur] to not expect your business to be exactly where you want it to be immediately.”

“I think it’s so exciting to me ... to take a step back,” she said, reflecting on her business. “It’s about trusting yourself ... knowing that you did this for a reason.”


Sheila Rodger is a WindsorEssex Small Business Centre client that received training, mentorship and $5,000 through the Starter Company program.  You too can receive support in launching or expanding your small business.  Contact us for more information.