Norm Hann has the experience of stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) in his mind, body and soul.
The former Sudburian has pushed himself through epic environmental causes and more than 20 races since he first stepped up on a board in 2008. He has brought international attention to the sport with his adventures, enthusiasm, integrity and passion. He can spend hours each and every day on his board. The kilometres soar by as Hann keeps building his connection to the water, land, wildlife and people he encounters.
At 43, he is in the best shape of his life. He is stronger than he has ever been. (Hann was no slouch in his younger years, playing university basketball for Laurentian University and the Canadian national men’s team.)
SUP has undeniably changed Hann’s life — both his purpose and who he is.
“Anytime I get on the water, it changes me,” he said. “It is mental therapy. It has all come from a passion-driven experience, and the experience is always changing.
The experience has allowed me to get other people into the sport and bring awareness to environmental threats.
“The experience has allowed me to get other people into the sport and bring awareness to environmental threats. It has transcended me to another level of responsibility. It has given me a lot for my mind, body and soul. I have to keep applying myself and following my passion.”
Hann has raced against the finest SUP boarders in the world. He has even helped break new ground in the sport for Canada and around the world. He and Bodie Shandor were the first Canadians to race the Molokai-Oahu (near Hawaii) race last summer on SUP boards, a feat Hann is proud of and counts as his most amazing race experience to date, due to the historical factor of the event.
The racing element in SUP has been a positive aspect for Hann, who was in need of a competitive fix after spending most of his life competing at a high level.
“How many people get the chance to start racing, being competitive and actual win races in their 40s?” he said. “It is nice to have my competitive juices flowing again. Most people my age are thinking about cutting back on competitive sports or have got out of them. Not me. I can’t.
“It’s not about winning races. I love being on the water and this keeps me active and in shape. I can find myself on the water every day, and that is the beauty of this sport.”
SUP has many sides with Hann besides racing. Defiantly, he has used the power of the sport to lead an expedition called Stand Up for Great Bear — a cause to bring attention to the threat of oil tankers and a proposed pipeline in a sensitive area along the coast of British Columbia. Hann works as a guide with his company, Mountain Surf Adventures, along the west coast near his home of Squamish. He has also worked with First Nations youth in Hartley Bay and he has been adopted into Raven Clan of the Gitga’at people.
This is his home. He feels obligated to help protect it, no matter what. This attitude has come from his SUP experiences.
“It has affected me the most,” he said. “It’s a place with people who have given me so much. I felt indebted to them. I found my chance with Great Bear. It has been the biggest change for me. Having people come up and tell me they were inspired to do something for Great Bear or help the environment makes me feel good. That is something I never had before. I didn’t think it would become what it has.”
Hann has embraced his role as an ambassador for the sport. He helps put on instructor courses and training sessions across the country, introducing countless people to SUP. He loves every second of being on the first wave of SUP and showcasing it as the sport finds a place in people’s hearts.
Hann said he can’t wait to see the sport “take off” in Greater Sudbury and Northern Ontario, his old stomping grounds and where he learned to paddle a canoe and first develop his love of paddling sports.
“It’s a no-brainer sports for people in Northern Ontario with all our lakes and warm summers,” he said. “It will be huge in Northern Ontario and it is only a matter of time.
“There are many different things you can do on a SUP board,” he continued.
“I’ve been fishing off mine for three years, and that has become the rage. People are doing yoga, white-water and flat water paddling on SUP boards. It will become an Olympic sport one day. I will have a sense of pride seeing it take off in Sudbury.”
In fact, Hann’s cousin, Mia Oliver-Gedye, launched the Great North Surf - Sudbury Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP) Club this spring. After being trained by Hann, Oliver-Gedye was inspired to share the sport with others .
Hann is only going to keep pushing the boundaries of this sport through multiple different aspects. He will not stop fighting for environmental causes and he will not stop being an ambassador for a sport he purely loves.
“It has always been based on passion and this is where it has taken me,” he said. “Being outdoors brings you a humbleness and gratefulness you can’t get anywhere else.”