by Mariepier Bastien

Paddleboarding With Whales

Paddleboarding with whales: it’s virtually any paddle boarder's dream. While some may travel to British-Columbia to live out this amazing experience, others may gravitate towards Northern Quebec in hopes of paddling alongside the largest marine mammal. In the case of our ambassadors Dom and Marie, this was their reality.  

A reality that we wish was our own! 

Photo : Dominic Faucher


In 2017, Dom and I built a van that we have lovingly named Vanessa (as you can probably guess, I didn't have final say in the naming process!). Once the conversion was finished, we were desperately seeking a place where we could spend our days out on the water and sleep by the shore. Having both visited Tadoussac with our families when we were younger, we dreamt of returning so we could see the whales up close and personal. After some research, we came across Les Vagues, located on the North Coast where the whales are curious, but most importantly, abundant. Two weeks later, our decision was made: we hit the road towards Havre-Saint-Pierre.

After 16 hours and 1276 km later, we arrived at our destination! We didn’t even have our wetsuits on and we were already freaking out! 

Photo : Dominic Faucher


As much as we were beyond excited to live out this dream, we did have a few reservations. We could very vividly imagine a large 170-ton blue whale doing summersaults in the air only to come tumbling down on us. That or being tipped over by a 50-meter whale fin, sending us flying 20 feet in the air, with a simple flick of the tail. To ensire our safety and offer some peace of mind, we decided to educate ourselves.

Located 15 minutes from Havre-Saint-Pierre, MICS (Mingan Island Cetacean Study) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the ecological study of marine mammals. There, we met Viridiana who taught us all about whales: diet, behaviour, reproduction, vocalisation…truly, everything! After a few hours, we came to the conclusion that there was no real danger for us. It was safe for us to paddleboard with the whales, so long as we kept our distance, unless of course the whales were to willingly approach us. 


Because paddleboarding in the Saint Lawrence River differs slightly from a SUP excursion on a lake in Outaouais, we recruited SUP school Les Vagues to accompany us out on the water. HSP native, Jane-Ann Cormier, and owner of Les Vagues, knows the local currents, surroundings and temperature fluctuations like the back of her hand. Just like that, we were instantly reassured. We were therefore fully prepared and more than excited to throw ourselves into the water.

After slipping on our wetsuits, gloves and booties, it was show time! 

Photo : Dominic Faucher


The feeling of being out on the water in Stand Up Paddle with whales? It's unmatched. It's somethin you have to experience yourself! You feel completely de-stabilized while still remaining in full control of yourself. You see the curious whales in the distance, slowly approaching. From time to time, you see them stick out the tip of their nose, look at you, say hello and continue on their way. Out on the water, you come to the realization that isn't you who's the strongest og them all, but instead the whale. 

« Dom and I have always been very respectful (to the best of our abilities) of our environment, but sharing this moment with the largest marine mammal in the world has put certain things into perspective. You develop a certain connection with nature and learn to respect it that much more. You understand that your consumption and climate change have a real impact on these whales. You start to understand the importance of talking about it and sharing your experience. »

Our tip: Visit Havre-Saint-Pierre. Not only to live the most incredible paddleboard experience, but to also experience a connection with whales and the people of HSP, but to also take advantage of our beautiful environment and it's coexisting wildlife.