Swimming near Toronto

10 ways to protect your fave paddle, surf or swim spot

Whether you’re an avid kayaker, a Great Lakes surfing newbie, or a hiker who just likes a good lake dip, freshwater is no doubt an important part of your outdoor life. MEC thinks so too, which is why we’ve invested approximately $2 million in freshwater issues since 2010, and launched our Homewaters campaign in 2014 to draw more attention to Canada’s diverse bodies of water. After all, Canada has one-fifth of the world’s freshwater, and our rivers make up 25 major watersheds.

While awareness is important, we know MEC members are people who like to take action, so here’s a list of 10 ways for you to protect the spots where you love to swim, paddle, surf and play.

1. Hashtag #myhomewaters

Tag your freshwater photo with #myhomewaters to share your love for local waters with the MEC community. It can be anything from SUP fun and canoe trips to creek crossings and lake swimming – or even ice climbing.

2. Donate what you can

Support the Canadian Freshwater Alliance – an emerging initiative working to unite, train and mobilize a new community in hopes of restoring and protecting Canada’s waters – with a donation. Your gift helps keep our waterways clean and accessible for future generations.

3. Identify your water footprint

Beyond drinking, bathing and playing, there are a lot of areas our water use stretches. Consider this: just one cotton t-shirt can require up to 2700 litres of water to be produced. Get tips on how to reduce your water footprint and buy from brands and companies who are actively working to reduce theirs. (MEC is a great place to start.)

Group of paddleboarders in a river

Photo: Elie Landesberg

4. Suit up for watersports

Swimmers, surfers and paddlers can gear up for a good cause. For each MEC Homewaters rashguard or pair of boardshorts sold, MEC will donate $2 to the Canadian Freshwater Alliance to support freshwater organizations across Canada.

5. Leave no trace

Who wouldn’t want to leave our great outdoors – including lakes, rivers and creeks – in the best shape possible? Follow the Leave No Trace principles to recreate, travel and tour responsibly.

6. Take a workshop

Do a little digging to find a great group around you who is all about waves, water and ways to protect it. Start with MEC Outdoor Nation collaborators Surf the Greats, who run shoreline clean ups and wave forecasting workshops out of the Toronto area.

7. Join your cottage association

If you’re lucky enough to have a family cottage, go the extra step and be the voice for the placid lake your sweet little cabin is sitting on. Docks, boating and even wind-blown picnic stuff from summer barbecues can have an effect on your spot.

8. Volunteer

There are those who say and those who do. If you’re a doer, we suggest joining forces with any of these amazing organizations:

Cleaning up garbage during Surf the Greats beach clean up

Photo: Lucas Murnaghan

9. Join a clean up

Last year the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup pulled 37,769 plastic bottles from waterways around the country – 19,260 from Ontario alone. Join Canucks from around the country zeroing in on their favourite water sites to help keep their homewaters clean.

10. Tell your story

Did you grow up swimming in Windermere Lake, Rice Lake or Lake Ouareau? Love to surf Lake Ontario or paddle whitewater rivers like MEC Ambassador Kalob Grady? Submit your unique water story to the Watermark Project, a collection of personal stories from across Canada.

For more information on the state of Canada’s freshwater bodies, check out WWF Canada’s Watershed Reports.

Top image photo credit: Eli Landesberg

Kim Budziak

Wordsmith, avid skier and rookie road biker. Firmly believes the best days are the snowiest ones.