by Cara Williams, photos by Warren Won

Tim Oliver turned his passion for stand-up paddleboard racing into international success, fueled by family support and the demanding conditions of Georgian Bay. 

Thornbury’s Tim Oliver isn’t just stirring the waters; he’s making waves in the world of stand-up paddleboard (SUP) racing. With a victory last summer at the Canadian SUP Championships in Collingwood, Tim’s success is a testament to his dedication and passion for the sport—a dedication that’s buoyed by the unwavering support of his family. This victory earned him the title of national champion and secured his position as Canada’s representative at the International Canoe Federation (ICF) SUP World Championships in Pattaya, Thailand, last fall. His family’s encouragement has been a constant source of motivation, inspiring him to push the boundaries of what he can achieve on the water. 

Tim’s journey into the world of SUP began almost serendipitously—transitioning from a competitive cyclist to a paddleboarder was fueled by the arrival of his children and the search for a more time-efficient way to stay active. “After having kids, I quickly learned that the five-hour bike ride isn’t necessarily on the table anymore,” explained Tim. 

Initially, paddling was simply a recreational outlet, but with his competitive spark, this pastime evolved into a passion. “The sport is very similar to cycling. If you sit behind someone else and their draft on the water, it’s substantially easier. And just like being in a peloton, if you go out in front and slog it out by yourself, it’s more challenging—there’s nowhere to hide from the wind and elements.” 

Living close to the water, Tim became adept at handling any water thrown his way. “I’m incredibly fortunate to live where I do, allowing me to cross the street and be in Georgian Bay. This body of water can mimic the ocean, especially on days with sustained northwest winds, where it’s not uncommon to encounter 10-foot waves in the open water, presenting conditions and technical challenges similar to ocean paddling. Within the same week, we might experience completely calm, glassy conditions with visibility down to 50 feet, reminiscent of a serene ocean day, and everything in between. Living here and paddling in these waters has significantly enhanced my versatility, enabling me to adapt to any condition.” 

Being invited to the ICF SUP World Championships was a significant milestone for Tim. “I ended up finishing fourth in the distance race,” said Tim. “Longer distances are kind of my forte. So, despite it being the first step off the podium, it was still a pretty good showing for me on that front.” It’s results like these that earned him a place on Starboard SUP’s professional team, placing him among the elite in the world. “I’ve been a team rider for Starboard for quite some time, and I’ve now progressed to what they call the ‘Dream Team,’ which represents the highest level of support one can receive from Starboard. As the leading brand in the industry, being part of this team is highly coveted— it’s like fulfilling a dream I’ve had since I started in the sport—to be part of a squad alongside the best paddlers in the world. It’s truly humbling.”

As SUP inches closer to potential Olympic inclusion, Tim, now 45, views his future in the sport with a blend of realism and optimism. “As of now, it’s not included in the 2028 LA Olympics. So, realistically, by that time, I’ll be significantly older. To be completely honest, I’m already acknowledging the impact of age on my performance.”

For now, Tim continues to contribute to the sport, not just through his competitive achievements but also by inspiring the next generation—his two children have recently begun to dip their toes into the waters. “My kids enjoy paddling, mainly for its fun and recreational aspects. I have several surf-specific stand-up paddleboards, which are essentially short, surfboard-like boards, and I always designate one or two of them for their use. This allows them to get out, stand up on these boards, and just have fun playing in the waves. That’s where they’re at with their paddling skills right now, and I’m completely okay with that. It’s wonderful to see them enjoy being in the water.” E