In our second installment of Where to Paddle, we tackle the Ambleside Beach area of West Vancouver.
Important Note: In reading this article you'll see I've included a number of warnings about potential hazards. In doing so, I'm not meaning to imply that these waters are overly risky, but want to provide you with a good amount of information so you can judge on yourself as to whether or not these waters are suitable for your skill set. That said, water conditions can change within minutes, so always have an exit strategy or backup plan in case things get ugly!
Situated at the North end of the Lions Gate Bridge, Ambleside Park is one of the most popular beaches in the Lower Mainland, and for good reason... Easy access, plenty of sandy stretches coupled with lots of grassy areas and exceptional scenery all help to make this one of the must-visit locations on a Vancouver beach tour.
Stuff to Know
- Ambleside Park is situated beside the mouth of the Capilano River and First Narrows, which not only sees a ton of freighter traffic nearby but the waters tend to move pretty quickly through the narrows (especially during big tides). As such, I'd personally suggest sticking pretty close to shore and away from the shipping lanes.
- The beach has about 500M of sandy beachfront which is all pretty comparable, but I'd suggest either parking near the Hollyburn Sailing Club. Or if that area is full, head back into the park, travel past the skate park and find a spot that fronts onto the beach to keep your walk to the beach at a minimum.
- Pay attention to the day's tide readings. To make things easier on yourself, try timing your paddle with an ebb tide for your outgoing leg and an incoming tide for your return. This usually doesn't make a huge difference but can help with longer excursions.
- Winds are typically Westerly (on a sunny day at least), and usually kick up late morning and mellow out early evening.
- As a general rule of thumb, though paddling across First Narrows over to Stanley Park looks tempting, I'd suggest against doing so. Again, not only do the waters tend to move very quickly through the First Narrows (underneath Lions Gate Bridge), but it's also heavily trafficked by freighters, cruise ships and other large vessels.
- Get here early on a summer weekend morning. Probably goes without saying, but this beach is extremely popular!
Here's a map of the general vicinity. Click here for Google Maps' version.
Standard disclaimer applies, don't use this map for navigation!
Here are a few destinations that are within fairly close proximity to the park. When you first start out on your trip, one item of note is the fishermen at the Ambleside pier can be a bit confrontational if you paddle too close to their lines, so best give them a wider berth than normal.
John Lawson Park
This park is situated around 0.5-1km along your route, depending on where you start from, where you'll see the second pier and kids playground. There are a few sneaker rocks hiding below the surface at mid to higher tides just to the West of pier near the sandy area. They're pretty close to shore, but something to be aware of anyways.
Waters are usually pretty smooth and it's a good quick destination for those just getting introduced to the sport.
Once past John Lawson Park, you'll paddle parallel to the West Vancouver sea wall towards a small rocky outcropping. Pay special attention in this area since opposing waters typically converge on this area, making for some surprisingly strong cross currents. Usually nothing that's going to pull you out to sea, but I've been unexpectedly tugged off my board a few times here in the past, especially right at the very end of the point.
Once past the point, you'll see Dundarave Pier off in the distance. This area is generally pretty uneventful, but again watch for quick and opposing currents, which are especially noticeable on big tide differentials.
Dundarave Pier is a good stop off point, is fully serviced with washrooms and a concession stand.
West Bay Park
2-3 km past Dundarave Pier is West Bay Park. Travel past 29th Street point, past Altamont park along to the next rocky outcropping, then paddle straight onto the 3rd beach.
This small, nicely protected little sandy beach also has washrooms available, and is a pretty good turnaround point for most recreational paddlers.
So there ya go, an introduction to stand up paddleboarding in West Vancouver's Ambleside Park area.
Hope you found everything here helpful, and be sure to post up in the comments if you have any additional information that other paddlers might find helpful!