Rachelle Cardinal


Hometown: London, ON

Distance: 20km

Rachelle Cardinal is an accomplished Stand Up Paddle Boarder who has competed in many Paddle Board races. She was the first Paddle Boarder to finish the Raisin River Race (one of the longest canoe races in Eastern Ontario), and competed in the Chattajack, a 31 mile (~50km) SUP/kayak race through the Tennessee River Gorge in Chattanooga, Tennessee as well as many others. Though slowing down her race career after a back injury, Rachelle will be embarking on a 20km distance paddle in this year’s event. 

 Rachelle is a dedicated paddler, who is excited to participate in the Canadian Freshwater Alliance’s Lake Erie Challenge this year. Rachelle hopes this event will raise awareness of the issues in Lake Erie and encourage the public to ask questions and learn about the issues. One of Rachelle’s favourite places to paddle is in Lake Erie. 

 The Canadian Freshwater Alliance chatted with Rachelle to talk about her upcoming swim, her training regimen and her connection to Freshwater and the Lake. 

CFA: What are your reasons for competing in the Lake Erie Challenge this year?What’s driving you to compete?

RC: I just want to challenge myself but also for a good cause. We’re all here to drive awareness to the Great Lakes and Lake Erie in particular and I think this is a great event to drive a little bit of awareness to the importance of how to protect our lakes and try and minimize the algae that’s developing in these lakes. You know, maybe talk to farmers about runoff and all that jazz, you really need to talk about all those things to try and avoid polluting our lakes and keeping them good for years to come. The way it’s going, we’re not going to have that.


CFA: How did you get into stand up paddleboarding?

RC: I saw people doing on paddleboards while I was on vacation and I said oh I’d love to try that! So, one year I finally ended up renting a paddle board at a cottage in New Brunswick for the week and it took me a week to stand up! I had no idea what I was doing but I fell in love right away. As soon as I got home I looked into where I could buy them and purchased a couple. Sure enough on Facebook one day I found out there was a paddle board race in Grand Bend and was like hey I’m going, and I’m bringing my walmart paddleboard with me! It didn’t matter! I showed up and all these people have these crazy carbon fibre paddle boards that are thousands of dollars and here I am showing up with this inflatable giant tiger special haha! Another athlete offered me their board, so I used that for the race. I completed the whole novice category and from there I was hooked. 


CFA: What do you love about Lake Erie?

RC: I love how shallow and warm it is, and  that it’s so unpredictable. The weather can change so quickly on that lake, I’ve been caught in some pretty bad scenarios on that lake many times venturing off on really long paddles and being stuck with an offshore wind pushing me off to the Americas. I like it’s beauty, it’s a beautiful lake so I really enjoy paddling there when I can.


CFA: Have you participated in competitions of this scale before?

RC: Absolutely, I’m an avid stand up paddle boarder and I’ve taken up paddle board racing, there was a time when I was extremely invested in racing, competitively. I’ve raced locally with the Ontario SUP series as well as internationally. Some of my larger events were the Chattajack in Tennessee which was a 52 km race down the Tennessee River Gorge which alone took 6 ½ hours to complete and months of preparation. I’ve done the Raisin River Race which is a 32 km race near my hometown in Cornwall, I was actually the first paddle boarder to complete it (2 years ago). That was kind of cool. The Lake Erie Challenge is considered a long distance challenge for me this year. I enjoy long distance paddles over short distance paddles, I feel I can get more into my groove like that.


CFA: What does your training regimen for this kind of event look like? Are there any other sports or workout routines that you incorporate into training?

RC: I try to get out at least a couple times a week to get time on the water, I think that’s the best way to prepare for something like this. 5k here, 10k here, 8k there, and just make sure right before the race or the event that you’re really well hydrated and your nutrition is on par. I think that’s important, you don’t want to cramp up early while you’re out there. I’m a pretty active person and I work in some circuit training, about 4x a week. 


CFA: How would a bad algae year affect your paddling?

RC: Well I just wouldn’t go in it. I wouldn't be able to swim and cool off, I might paddle but it definitely wouldn’t be as enjoyable. It just brings the vibe down big time, I tend to go seek cleaner/fresher water somewhere else where I can not just paddle but also swim and enjoy.


Donate here to support Rachelle in the challenge!