Triggered by The Sudden Death of Her Sup’ing Brother, First Timer Amber Nolan Paddles 65km Around Canadian Lake
A year ago I never dreamed I would have completed a 65km paddle across a great lake in the memory of someone so special to me. My inspiration for this event came out of the untimely death of my brother, Sam Armstrong.
I wanted a way to keep his memory and his stoke for SUP alive for both me and my family. Considering Sam completed this marathon paddle only weeks before his death it seemed like the best way to remember him. Sam started paddling in 2010, in lakes in Northern Ontario Canada and was probably the first one on these lakes ever on a SUP.
He found it to be a great stress reliever and became very passionate about the sport. Sam was the first one to sign up for the SUP4MS event in 2011 and raised the most money that year. The event was started by Mike Sandusky of Surf Ontario as a fundraiser on behalf of his sister who battles Multiple Sclerosis. Sam started paddling after returning from visiting our brother in California.
We don’t have consistent waves up here in so he found paddling to be the perfect fit. He paddled the rough lakes daily and some days he was lucky enough to surf. When he first told me of his passion I thought he was a little crazy, but always supported him and knew I would be there at the finish line the day of the event. That day he was so excited to share his stoke for SUP he told me “Amber I know you will love it and be here with me next year.”
I promised to try it, but laughed and said no guarantee on the 65km. It seemed like a huge feat considering no woman had yet to complete this challenge.
That was the last day I saw Sam, he passed away a few weeks later of a brain tumor no one knew he had. In March I travelled to California myself and had Ward Coffey from Ward Coffey Shapes in Santa Cruz custom shape me a board specifically for my 65km journey, before I had really even tried the sport.
I came home and began training with a rental board and wet suit from Surf Ontario. I trained daily in all kinds of conditions. When my custom board was ready our brother Luke, drove the board from California all the way to my home in Ontario, Canada to ensure its safe delivery. With my new board and the huge support of my family and friends, I knew in my heart I could do it. Lucky for me I met some amazing people along the way that helped make sure I did. Brent Ackland and Ariel Amaral of Northern Stand Up Paddle, gave me the skills I needed on the water to complete the journey. What I did not count on was how inspired they both were and both decided to join me on the 65km paddle.
On a beautiful day in August we paddled into shore as a team, which included my father and uncle driving the safety boat. On the same shore where Sam had arrived one year earlier stood many people, who remembered the day of Sam’s same journey, cheering us in. That fourteen and a half hour paddle was the closest I would ever be to Sam again. I knew he was there with me the entire time. Sam was right when he said “Amber I know you will love it and be here with me next year.” What I didn’t know was how much I would love it and continue to spread Sam’s stoke for the sport.