Submitted by: Rachelle Brunelle-McColl, MNO Employment Developer

paddle boarding
Participants of the stand-up paddle boarding lesson.

On a beautiful warm morning, slightly overcast on Georgian Bay, surrounded by the sound of water, a landscape of trees and the smell of the sand and beach, a group of five Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) staff members from the MNO Midland office took on a challenge during their own personal time. That challenge was a half day of stand-up paddle boarding lessons by Scott Parent, a Métis entrepreneur from Fathom Paddle Guiding based out of Tobermory, Ontario.

The participants included Debbie Giammattola-Ferris, MNO Community Support Service Coordinator; Jo-Anne Parent, MNO Regional Education and Training Coordinator; Tracy Bald, MNO Community Wellness Coordinator; Jodi Blue, MNO Healthy Weights Connection Coordinator; and Rachelle Brunelle-McColl, MNO Employment Developer.

Immediately all five women exchanged their thoughts of what the day would include and their optimism of how well they will do at this unknown sport. As MNO staff, they also exchanged opinions of how this experience encompasses the existing programs and services offered to MNO citizens. Whether it is education and training, health and wellness or healthy weights connection, Fathom Paddle Guiding reflects the mission, vision and values within each of those, along with a strong connection to our culture and bond to the waterways of Ontario.

Parent took time to review all safety concerns and gave great detail on each of the different paddle boards that were going to be used during the lesson. Immediately it was obvious that his passion for this sport and the outdoors was his driving force in how he instructed. Parent has always been an outdoor enthusiast and has extensive training as a lifeguard, rock climbing, and wilderness survival. He has taken his knowledge and turned it into a business to educate others and promote a healthy lifestyle.

Each participant chose a board and made their way into the water, which initially was a bit of a shock as the early morning chill hadn’t yet lifted. Parent covered several beginner techniques such as stances, body positioning and paddling strokes. He also reminded everyone to not be afraid to fall in the water and to embrace it. With the slight breeze in the air, being surrounded by mild surf on the water, beautiful rock formations and view of beautiful Christian Island combined a therapeutic and spiritual experience.

Parent was very observant in each participant’s physical abilities and goals for the day. He altered his teaching methods and took the needed time with each participant to discuss techniques and best approaches for being successful at the sport.

As participants became more comfortable on the boards, each independently traveled along the water and took in a deep appreciation for their surroundings. They also had a lot of fun learning the techniques, “embracing” their falls into the water and being able to laugh at themselves during some awkward moments.

During a short break, the women gathered on the secluded beach and had a wonderful brunch and shared how the overall experience really was a true connection amongst each other. All agreed that as the sport can be physically demanding at times, the relaxed learning environment made it very therapeutic.

They then decided to challenge themselves with a goal to paddle across the Bay to the lighthouse located on Christian Island. Not a usual first time lesson goal as Parent said, however they felt up for the challenge. When reaching the Island the accomplished feeling they felt was surreal.

“The overall experience I had with this group of ladies was beyond wonderful,” said Rachelle Brunelle-McColl. “Having time to ourselves to learn and laugh, get in touch with nature and some self-reflection of my culture is certainly something I plan to do again and again!”