Boating in Kelowna: Situated on beautiful Okanagan Lake, Kelowna, British Columbia is the perfect setting for a great boating experience. Carved out by glaciers during the ice age, this pristine mountain lake winds its way 80 miles or 130 kilometres up the scenic Okanagan Valley in the Southern Interior of BC. Kelowna is centrally located on the eastern shore, halfway up the lake.
Kelowna is a four-season playground with mild spring and fall months. Summers are hot with lots of sunny dry days, great for all sorts of outdoor activities with the lake literally at your doorstep. The summer is a fantastic time to enjoy boating in this cosmopolitan mid sized city. During the winter months typically there is little activity on the lake, with the possible exception of fishermen trolling for elusive monster rainbow trout, working tugs shuttling log booms, or barges carrying pile drivers and lumber to the next job.
For in depth information about the various boating opportunities in Kelowna check out our sister site BoatingKelowna.com.
Waterskiing: Waterskiing has been enjoyed on Okanagan Lake practically since the first water skis were developed and boats got fast enough to tow skiers. In the 1960s, a waterski club was located on the western shore of Okanagan Lake, just south of the Kelowna bridge where Shelter Bay Marina stands today. It boasted a floating clubhouse complete with judges’ stand, a slalom course, and a jump kept slippery with pumped water.
The waterski club held slalom, trick and jumping events at this site. Kelowna's renowned Athans family started water skiing competitively here, with George Jr. going on to become two-time world champion, and national champion for ten years running. Over the years Kelowna has produced many talented skiers and coaches, with some second-generation skiers following in their parents' footsteps.
Wakeboarding: Since its inception, the popularity of wakeboarding has been growing by leaps and bounds. These days, wakeboards are ubiquitous on Okanagan Lake throughout the summer months. From the debut of the Skurfer in the mid-80s, gear has evolved to include high-tech twin-tip wakeboards with high wrap secure bindings, wakeskates, no-stretch ropes and specialized wakeboard boats.
While a decade ago it was rare to see a tower on a ski boat, there are now few on our lakes without one. With the development of V Drive tournament boats, skiers and their friends now enjoy more comfort and storage, better handling when the lake kicks up, and hugely adjustable wakes that can be ‘dialed in’ to each rider’s ability and style.
Wakesurfing: Wakesurfing is a relatively new sport, although it has been around for many decades in one form or another. The original, long surfboards were towed behind family runabouts. Those early attempts to surf the boat's wake were quite primitive — nothing compared to what this sport has developed into today. Modern day wakesurfing offers inland surfers a chance to shred a wave — even though they may be hundreds of miles from the ocean's coast and its swells. Sophisticated innovations have made the Tow Boats easy to set up and drive with the capacity to take family and friends for great sessions on our local lakes.
Sailing: The sport of sailing has been around the Kelowna area since the turn of the century and has grown throughout the years to involve many types of sailing vessels. Today there are keel boats and catamarans, trimarans, Hobie Cats, dinghies, windsurfers and kiteboarders. Until recently, sailors at the north and south ends of Okanagan Lake were segregated by Kelowna’s old floating bridge, which permitted passage under its lift span at set times of the day, which changed depending on time of year. With the new bridge, look for increased participation in the weekly sailing regattas at the Kelowna waterfront on Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings. It is quite a sight to see all the colourful spinnakers flying on a downwind leg, off the shores of Kelowna’s downtown waterfront.
Windsurfing/Kiting: Kiteboarding is a relatively new sport that has changed the world of high performance sailing and taken it to a whole new level.
The sport’s lightweight kites and handles have developed quickly over the past few years. Going from the original two-line kites to four-line was a huge step in performance and ease-of-use. Most kites have air bladders on the leading edge for re-launching in deep water conditions. Quick releases on the kite and harness offer extra safety. Kiteboarders can launch themselves high into the air by pressuring the board on edge and trimming the kite to its maximum potential to create lift. The height and hang time cannot be replaced by any other water sport except parasailing. Local kiteboarders and Windsurfers prefer southwesterly, onshore breezes in the 12 to18 knot range, often found off Rotary Beach. When a strong northerly breeze is blowing, they prefer to sail off Manhattan Point near its lighthouse. Many among K-town’s kiteboarders were windsurfers looking for a bigger adrenaline rush! Head down to Rotary Beach on a windy day and enjoy watching talented sailors launch themselves high into the sky.
Paddling: Paddling has a long history in the Okanagan Valley, dating back to the canoes used by First Nations people who settled here in the early 19th century. White pioneers who settled in Kelowna in the 1900s likewise used canoes -- to ferry supplies to their properties and to cross the lake if weather permitted. When the Kelowna Regatta was established over a hundred years ago, canoe races attracted competitors from all over western Canada and northern Washington State. That same competitive spirit lives on today with dragon boats being the primary racing canoe of choice. Over 160 dragon boat teams (representing 4500-plus competitors from near and far) come to compete by Kelowna's downtown waterfront. Spectators lining the seawalls cheer on their favorite teams, while the drums beating the paddlers’ cadence can be heard for miles around the water’s edge. For more information about paddling in the Kelowna area check out Kelowna Paddle Centre.
Fishing: Many people think of Kelowna in terms of world class wineries and golf courses but it is also a vacation destination with some of the best fishing BC has to offer. The Kelowna area lakes can provide some great trolling and fly fishing opportunities for the novice or seasoned veteran alike. If your idea of fishing is sitting back relaxing, soaking up the rays and enjoying the scenery then fishing Okanagan Lake is perfect for you. This 80 mile (128 kilometre) long lake is home to not only the legendary Ogopogo but trophy Rainbow Trout to 20lbs (9 kgs), and boasts the world record Kokanee catch at 9lbs. 6ozs (4.25 kgs). As fall approaches and the water begins to cool the Kokanee start to feed higher in the water column and the shore spawners begin to school up in anticipation of mating and finishing their life cycle, spawning along the shores of Okanagan lake.
Diving: Okanagan Lake is rich in history, being a mainstay for travel in the early 1900s. Paddle wheelers carried passengers and cargo from the northern end of the lake in Vernon to its southern terminus in Penticton, with various stops along the way. After the highways were completed, the use of passenger ships declined. Rail barges transported goods up and down the valley up until February 1973. Visibility is very low in the summer months: as poor as two to five feet. Fall, winter and spring – the best seasons to dive on Okanagan Lake – offer better visibility (between 15 and 30 feet). For advanced divers, other interesting dives on Okanagan Lake include the underwater caves and caverns at Rattlesnake Island (where the legendary lake monster Ogopogo made his home), and also below the steep cliffs on the south side of Squally Point.
For more in depth information on Okanagan dive sites contact the local diving shops located in Kelowna. Remember to always dive with a buddy!
Having fun wake surfing on Okanagan Lake!
1951 video of hydroplane races that were held every year at Regatta time.