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windsurfing alberta > beaches

Believe it or not ... there is a fair bit of water in Southern Alberta. All of these locations have been extensively windsurfed ... we are now re exploring them with our kites! GOT A FAVORITE SECRET SPOT? Send us an email and tell us about your favorite Kitesurfing / Windsurfing location. Anywhere and everywhere in southern Alberta. We want to know, and so do our visitors.

The following Southern Alberta sailing spots are listed in a north to south order.

1. Gull Lake

The lake, located 2 1/2 to 3 hours north of Calgary has campgrounds with good access. Conditions are good during south and northerly winds. The lake offers especially great sailing during hot, high-pressure weather conditions. It's a shallow lake, thus warms early on. This lake will probably be a fun kiting location ...!

The water often becomes uncomfortably infested with algae by August ... nice!

2. Sylvan Lake

Sylvan, 2 hours north of Calgary, offers some great conditions for windsurfers and kiters of all abilities ... and it has a nice sandy beach! In the spring it warms up quickly and can be a lot of fun for for the bump and jump crowd. The swell on a N or NW wind can be very nice with clean dishes and will give even the most jaded of riders a big smile. Kiting conditions are often onshore ... but if you can get out, conditions will be good.

The summer is a calmer time at Sylvan in terms of wind, but consistent thermals in the afternoon make for some great kiting or Formula board sailing. The terrain around the lake is quite interesting and accommodation plentiful.

Along Lakeshore Drive, the town's main drag, there are a number of hotels and motels ... and there are also campgrounds, some of which provide trailer hookups.

3. Abraham

This lake, about 3 to 3 1/2 hours drive north of Calgary, is located on the David Thompson Highway in central Alberta. It offers great, cold water, high performance sailing. 'Windy Point' is the recommended launch point. The wind is shifty and gusty.

4. Minnewanka / Two-Jack / Spray Lakes

Camping is available everywhere although facilities vary. The lakes, in Banff National Park are 1 to 1 1/2 hours west of Calgary, offers scenic mountain windsurfing and some fantastic winter kiting. Spray Lakes offer an opportunity for some great backcountry riding. It's like going hiking with your board! Floaty boards only. Adventure sailing.

5. Windermere

Located in the Columbia valley, 2 1/2 to 4 hours west of Calgary in southeastern British Columbia. Many campgrounds and ok windsurfing access from public beaches. Well known for its occasional summer storms. Generally better formula / freestyle board sailing and the kiting will be ok if you can find a safe launch. Large lake, so there's places with little Interference from boat traffic ... there's places with a lot of traffic as well. Many camping spots available, often with lake access.

6. Lac Des Arcs

A small lake 45 minutes west of Calgary, Access from Highway 1. There are no facilities but there is a sandy launch. Scenic mountain sailing. Shallow water with water warmer than most other mountain lakes. Watch out for submerged tree trunks! As with most mountain lakes ... the wind is shifty and gusty.

7. Ghost

This lake, 30 minutes west of Calgary and 10 minutes west of Cochrane, is reached from Highway 1A. Camping is available with some facilities (toilets) but no showers. Winds get whipped up specifically during westerly and southwesterly winds because of winds funneling through the mountain passes, but if there is a Northerly element to the wind it lifts over the lake causing a large wind shadow. Try to sail on a board with a little float ... the wind can shut down very quickly. The water Is cold in the early months, but nice from July on. Not a great kite location ... the launches aren't that good and it will be pretty gusty.

8. Chestermere

A lake located about 20 minutes east of Calgary. There's no camping but toilets are available and it is now free to park. The lake's proximity to Calgary makes it a prime spot for an evening or half day's sail. Access from the west by the 17th Avenue bridge, and on the east side, about midway down the lake. Not a bad spot for beginner windsurfers ... kiters should have a bit of skill, there is a lot of shore obstacles (read docks) to watch out for when launching and landing.

9. Eagle

Eagle Lake is a 40 minute drive east of Calgary along Highway 1. It offers full facility camping, day sailing and a sandy beach. If you've gone to Chestermere and the conditions don't look very promising, try here. Eagle is subject to different wind conditions because of the unique geography of the surrounding area.

S winds are often gusty, W winds are onshore ... this place can go OFF in strong Northerly conditions with a short steep, breaking swell! The swells have very, very, very smooth water between them so it is a kiters paradise as well. Shallow ... nice kite launch. Check it out in the spring and early summer!

The water occasionally becomes uncomfortably infested with algae by August. Yuk!

10. Lake Newell

A fairly large Irrigation lake south of Brooks and a 2 hour drive east of Calgary. Camping is available, and nice facilities, but no showers. The best access is from Kinbrook Park. Though not as windy, Newell offers great prairie sailing. Winds are like Eagle and often come from different directions. Access is rocky so bring your boardsailing shoes.

11. McGregor

Near Milo, 1 1/2 hours southeast of Calgary. Sandy, muddy, rocky access so pick your spot. Toilets, fire pits and tables are available. This location goes OFF in strong due South (read sub 4.5 ) and North conditions, with HUGE rolling swells! Water is warm early in the season. A lot of room and flat water make this a good kite location in S, SW and N winds. Good flat water sailing on windward side, more waves as you move downwind. Flat water on the N end on North winds ... more waves as you move downwind.

Spot #4:
The existing campground and boat launch at the north end.  Best in S to East winds and good in SW winds.  Any other wind direction makes it offshore.  This area can be awesome flat water kiting when its blowing NE ... and the launch gets considerably better late in the season when the water is down. 

Spot #1:
Drive another few kms south and see a west road with abandoned farm buildings. Laurents favorite spot. They drove the dirt track to the lake and stayed off the fields 100 feet away. Nice spot, sandy bottom, easy access. In the water there is a sort of "jetty" of vegetation that kills the waves near shore for flat water cruising. Go out 200 feet past it and its a nice swell.

Spot #2:
Further south about 2 kms ... straight to the shore line on a dirt track.  Nice turnaround, grass launch, swell should be ok when its SW or NW to N. Good for all wind directions except East winds.

Spot #3:
There is a development at the east end fo McGregor with a public access boat launch and public property for 100 metres from shore with grass rigging areas. Because the lake is narrower here, the waves should be small in west, SW and S winds ... but they should be HUGE when the wind is NW! All side to onshore.

Thanks to Laurent Marechal!

12. Keho

Keho is the home of Alberta's first successful barrel roll, forward loop and backwards loop ... thats the word on windsurfing! It is also the home to some pretty good kitesurfing ... flat water behind the points, and very good swell to ride when its windy. This is hard core sailing ... bring the whole quiver, down to 3.0 square meters ... and sub 10m kites.

Located 1 1/2 hours southeast of Calgary, there's access from the Force 10 leases on the northeast side of the lake and from the Ranch. Keho is most recommended during southwest and westerly winds and is good for riders looking for decent-sized inland waves. Extreme wind conditions, not uncommon here, sometimes make getting offshore difficult. If you plan to visit often, join the club. The swell is huge and the wind is usually steadier than at the Oldman.There is a variety of launches available ...

the Ranch (farmer Don's point) - The Ranch is open for both overnight and dayuse at Keho. There will be a locked gate off the main road. Those campers that have seasonal spots will open the gate when they are on site. If the gate is open, kite ranch is open!! There is a firepit and washrooms ... and best of all, Gord's pride and joy, new horseshoes pits! It is the place to camp at Keho lake. Wind direction is side onshore at the end of the point, but side offshore below the point when its SW ... fantastic flat water below the point ... mmm, butter ... and chop out in the lake. This is an awesome spot in E, N and S winds as well.

KiteBeach - North shore, 2 km west of Kehokipa via dirt access road (east of rock causeway). Excellent kite launch, shallow water, rigging area. Flat water behind the small points ... and some small to medium sized waves to play on over the sand bars. Side shore with W wind, side-on in SW ... and pretty onshore in S wind. DAY USE ONLY. This is an awesome kite location with a sandy launch. Please park well back from the launch area ... pack out your trash! Site is leased to FORCE 10 BOARDSAILING CLUB from the Alberta government.

The point at Kitebeach has been reshaped again and has been reseeded this spring. AB environment has just given the Force 10 boardsailing club permission to maintain the site ... according to their conditions ... eventually, it will be an awesome launch this season.

DUE TO THE CURRENT STATUS of Kitebeach, all camping and washrooms should be at Kehokipa or the Ranch. DAY USE ONLY at Kitebeach until status is in order, "Please do not jeopardize access to this excellent kite site".

Granaries - North shore 1 km west of Kehokipa across from the 6 steel granaries. Side shore with W wind, side-on in SW ... and pretty onshore in S wind. Beginner to advanced, sandy bay, flat water launch protected by old road point to the west, nice thick waves about 200 meters out, not as steep as Kehokipa but great to ride, shallow waist deep water for 50 meters out. The start of the very good waves on a strong S to W blow. Excellent site for beginner day’s and experts especially on those really big 100 km SW wind day’s when Kehokipa closes out. DAY USE ONLY. Tall grass rigging. Do not use this site if ground it wet as you will get stuck. Excellent downwind landing spot when you are learning to kite at the Ranch and kitebeach.

Kehokipa - North east shore of Keho lake. Advanced to expert windsurfing and kiting, sand and rock launch, large steep ramps and waves break close to shore, nasty side current and beach break when winds are from SW above 80 km, excellent spectator viewing, outhouse, fire pit, ample parking, grass rigging, free overnight camping. Probably the best high performance windsurfing site in southern Alberta. Site is leased to FORCE 10 BOARDSAILING CLUB from the Alberta government.

Speed site - Southwest corner, access via orange NAVTACH hay barns. This has been the location of some very, very fast speed runs during past speed competitions. SW and West winds blow off shore here creating flat water even in 100km winds. Great side to side - onshore wind kite spot in N wind. An early season site, weeds tend to grow in the shallow water by August.

Boat Launch (the Jetties) - South shore, directly across from Kehokipa. If there is a North onshore wind try this site for a real treat of semi hollow big waves that can wrap around the long rock jetty. Park, rig and launch by the trailer parking area south of rocks.

Thanks to Laurent Marechal for the maps!

When there is a westerly flow, it is always windy close to the mountains earlier in the day, at Pincher Creek / Oldman Dam ... the wind spreads out over the prairies later (You can actually do a bit of work and then catch an afternoon or evening session at Keho). The rule of thumb is if it blowing 30k at Claresholm, turn and go to Keho ... if the wind at Claresholm is very light, keep on going to the Oldman. Claresholm is actually in the wind shadow of the Porcupine hills, so do not expect strong Westerly winds there ... usually if its 30kW at Claresholm, it will be 60+ at Keho Lake!

There are toilets , camping and a fire pit. The Keho golf course across the lake has an amazing $6.00 breakfast!

13. Stafford

Camping is available at Stafford, 2 1 /2 to 3 hours southeast of Calgary. It's accessible from most sides. Like Oldman, Stafford offers small waves and high winds. It's a great spot for nailing those Jibes. Stafford is less sensitive to wind direction. "Raymond ridge" is a good spot during westerly winds. Several world sailing speed records have been set at Stafford,

14. Travers Dam

There's camping at Little Bow Provincial Park and at the south end by the dam on this lake 1 3/4 hours southeast of Calgary. Big waves and open countryside are the attractions here. Westerly winds are the best bet. There are few amenities at the south end, and long downwind reaches.

15. Oldman Dam

The Oldman Dam, 2 1/2 hours south of Calgary, is one of the best windsurflng sites in western Canada. With the advent of sheetable kites is is quickly becoming a fantastic kite destination as well. It is very windy here a lot of the time, even when the wind isn't up elsewhere. Bring the whole quiver, down to 3.5 square meters windsurfing sails and a 7-9m kite for the moderate days.

I understand there is a bit of user conflict at Windy Point at the OMD ... if we are kiting there ... remember there is a 30m restriction in place. Don't be a jackass and huck close to shore! Force 10 is taking steps to smooth this misunderstanding over ... in the meantime ... lets be good citizens.

Thanks to Laurent Marechal for the maps!

Windy point ... a government developed sailing site is on the SE corner of the lake, and is where most of the sailing is done these days. Pea gravel lauvch, lots of parking, washrooms ... great viewing. This is an awesome spot!

Kite Beach is located on the NW end of the lake ... across from the Castle River inlet. The wind is much steadier at this end of the lake when the wind is SW ... it is still pretty gusty though compared to the prairie lakes. The will be some pretty turbulent wins across the lake near the cliffs at the Castle River inlet ... steer clear from that side.

Most of the sailing around Oldman has been done with the lake at lower than 100 percent capacity, and already It offers conditions which can be hand picked. Another good kite launch when the water is less than full is the launch off Massey Point, on the north side of the lake. This launch site is marked by an old Massey Ferguson combine, and during prevailing winds provides straight passage up the Castle River Inlet. There can be some turbulence by the far shore ... stay near the N shore it is all good.

Another great windsurfing launch site offering clean, smooth water sailing is accessible from the south end of the lake via Pincher Creek Station. Access is from the No. 3 Highway. Instead of heading south to Pincher Creek, you head north of the No. 3 highway, past the Husky gas station, the grain elevators along a winding gravel road for about 3 kilometers. The road ends in the lake, and offers plentiful parking alongside. Other launch sites are available.

Pine Coulee reservoir is 1.5 hours south of Calgary. At Stavely turn right (west) and follow signs to the Provincial Campground.  It's about 16 Km west of Hwy 2. The campsite is on the west side and on the south end of the reservoir. There is camping right on the lake with 4 campsites right on the beach. Not really a beach, this is a newly flooded prairie so grass and rose bushes are all the way to waterline. Fee is $20 and has power. There are dry toilets and water for cooking.  Bring drinking water. Stavely (about 15 minutes away) Grocery store has ice and Stavely hotel has the beer & ice. The reserviour is 16 Km long and 1 Km wide.  It is filled in early spring with runoff from Willow creek. This is the first year it was filled to 100% so the algae bloom is incredible. It will get better with time. Probably warm early in the spring.

16. Waterton

Waterton International Peace Park, just 1/2 hour south of Pincher Creek is another windsurfer's dream come true. The scenery is nothing short of fantastic, and the winds can be very strong. There is often a very regular morning and late afternoon thermal during the summer months when the rest of the area is suffering the doldrums!

It is a National Park and there is a $10 per day user fee unless you have a pass. This fee is in addition to camping fees. Waterton is famous for its Wa-Wa's. These wind and water walls can be seen hurtling down the lake for miles towards poor unsuspecting short-boarders. The gusts are simply so strong that they whip the water off the surface, making a dark ominous wall. The water is straight from the glacier, so count on wearing a steamer, even during the summer months. Some prefer a dry suit year-round although some brave souls dare the elements in shorties in late August,

The preferred accommodations are at the provincial campground which is right along the shore, so that sails can be left rigged up overnight beside your tent / trailer.

Mountain goats roam freely here, and waterfalls are a short walk away. The town offers some restaurants, a candy store, and the Prince of Wales Hotel is also a worthwhile visit. Other attractions Include horseback rides and moped and bicycle rentals (the side-by-side kind!). If you're mountain biking, check where you can and can't ride as there are some restrictions.

17. Waterton Dam

It’s 15 minutes east of the Waterton townsite, and offers awesome flat water conditions if Waterton becomes too much. The dam site is much warmer because the water is shallower. The dam is good in southwest to west winds. Northwesterly winds cause a large wind shadow on the west side. With boat access this location is possibly the best kite location in the province. Go and explore ... turquoise water, gravel and grass beaches, lots of points and bays.

18. St.Mary's Reservoir

Wally's Beach, 45 min SW of Lethbridge near Cardston is an option in the extreme south of Alberta. Grass and sandy rigging, relatively cool water, and an extremly picturesque setting near the mountains. West winds produce a superb onshore ocean-like ridable 2m wave break over rock reef when water is high in late spring and winds blow over 60 km. The launch is a little sketchy with a kite (onshore with big trees) ... it is better for kiting when the water level is low.

St Mary Reservoir REPORT – from last Summer 2008:

Great spots, easy access, good for beginners easy walk back.
At South St Mary we had Flat water 1 inch waves at most, no weeds, 1 km of straight screaming reaches in flat water.
Room for 8 to 10 kiters.
There are 2 more spots that I scouted (see red scout pins) good for pickup and the eastern scout pin is good for kiting. Unlimited room.
Windsurfing and Kiting are probably fantastic at the East Scout pin – flat near shore, huge waves offshore.
Wind direction South to North and all the westerlies are good.
Typically St Mary blows better than the Oldman Dam or similar to it but not gusty like Windy Point.
Nearest town for food and weather info is Cardston 10 minutes away
Campground at east end is nice and you can windsurf right out the tent, but bring bug spray.

Thanks to Laurent Marechal for the map and the info!

19. Ridge Reservoir

Ridge Park, 35 Min. South of Lethbridge near Raymond is on the south shore of the lake. Grass rigging, shelters, outhouse, camping at a charge, spring and fall 6.0-3.0 sails, 9' and smaller boards, relatively cool water. Intermediate and expert conditions. West winds are sideshore with huge ridable swells.

We will do some kiting on it this year and let you know how it holds up.

 

See you on the water!
Aloha, bob

Before sailing always check Current Alberta Conditions!


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