“I can’t wait for the summer to be able to get back to it!” This kind of sentence, some amateur sportsmen have banned it from their speech, ready to brave the rigors of winter to practice their favorite hobby outdoors. Among dozens of activities, here are three for which fearless Quebecers grab their boards or balls.

For some, surfing rhymes with hot sand, sunscreen and light swimsuits. But for others, there is no season for the little thrill. Equipped from head to toe to withstand the icy cold of the St. Lawrence, board enthusiasts tackle the standing waves of Montreal, LaSalle and behind Habitat 67, whatever the mercury indicates.

Talk to Igor Goni, a buff who’s been hitting the river summer and winter, when conditions allow, for nearly 20 years. Armed with one of his three thick full suits (with a minimum layer of 5 mm), gloves and neoprene boots, this four-season surfer keeps out the cold. Because its worst enemy is not necessarily the thermometer, but the fragments of ice that sometimes invite themselves into the currents and which, if too numerous and plump, can make the practice dangerous, even prohibited. “Some pieces of ice on the surface can hit your head and knock you out,” warns Igor Goni, who leaves his boards in the closet on days when surfing is dangerous.

The winter water sports community also helps each other to report on Facebook, throughout the week, whether the practice is safe or not, with a lot of “ice reports”, supporting videos. How many get in the water? On the snowy shores, Igor estimates that he will come across around twenty regular followers over the cold season; in short, the summer overpopulation of river surfers drastically melts away in winter!

Accustomed to the “guy wave” in LaSalle, Igor Goni has already surfed in perceived temperatures of -20°C, and his winter sessions can stretch over two hours.

His trick: he pours warm water inside his suit and boots beforehand, which spares his body the task of warming up the thin layer of insulating water that forms between his skin and the gear.

No illusions however: after a certain number of rides on the wave, the nibbles of the cold are felt at the extremities. “It always starts with the feet and the toes, which are the parts that stay in the water most often. The hands, too,” reports the surfer. And the face, part of which is bare? “Not really, the wetsuit can cover part of it, you blow air into it and it stays warm around the head,” he says.

Once on the wave, does winter complicate the controls of the board compared to a summer situation? “Not so much, but if there are small chunks of ice coming your way, you have to be comfortable maneuvering and dodging them.” Learning to surf in winter conditions wouldn’t be a good idea,” said the Montrealer, who learned the joys of board sports in his native Venezuela. He also sometimes cuts his sessions short if the little ice threatens to damage his most valuable and high-performance boards – but when he’s out with his “beaters”, who can take a beating, it will take more to take it out of the water.

The experienced surfer appeals to responsibility, while emphasizing that practice in the river, even in winter, remains safe as long as one abstains in the event of abundant ice. Accidents remain extremely rare: he has counted two in 20 years. “Don’t overestimate your abilities, dress well, don’t go if there’s a lot of ice,” he advises, he who has already pulled a fellow victim of hypothermia out of the water. But his mantra remains: “Have fun!” »

Every year, more and more of them hit the town, on the slopes and in the skate parks: snow skating, or snowskate, allows lovers of sliding to rediscover the sensations of skateboarding, but in the heart of winter. . Seeing them twirl makes you wonder: what makes it different from snowboarding? A lot of things, announces Sébastien Boisvert, founder of the organization Technical Skateboards, while, behind him, about twenty neophytes try their hand at the discipline, during a day of activities offered at Rosemount.

First of all, there are no attachments that secure the snowboarder to his steed, which is much smaller than a snowboard. Secondly, it can be practiced almost everywhere, with the exception of the large slopes of ski centers. Anyway, its vocation is not to hurtle down verticals all schuss.

Still behind him, on the mound of Parc Joseph-Paré, the two instructors Mathieu Chouinard and Étienne Trudeau demonstrate the full potential of the board, with which they can reproduce the range of tricks they practice in skateboarding: ollie, spin ( kickflip), frontside rotation (frontside 180)…

“It’s easy for everyone, and one of the big advantages is that you’re less afraid of falling than on a skateboard, since the snow cushions the falls”, underlines the manager of Technical Skateboards.

As if to prove him right, about fifteen children slip on the board lent to them, sometimes break their hoe, but get back in the saddle right away for another ride. Among them, we find Isaïa and Mateo, 5 years old and 6 years old, who have come to learn with their parents. “We had targeted this activity to test a new experience,” says their mother Taïs Fleury-Berthiaume who, despite a small (and distant) experience in skateboarding, found herself stepping out of her comfort zone. “We’re a little taken aback, because we don’t really know how to brake or slow down, but it makes you want to try again longer,” she says, while her partner, Damien Olofio, seems to do not ask questions and pass like a cannonball on the adjacent slope, visibly greyed out.

The equipment? Very simple, starting with a suitable board in plastic or laminated wood, covered with a grip on the top and a grooved sliding plate (in P-Tex) below (allow between $100 and $200). Dismantle the axle blocks (trucks) of his summer skateboard? Not a good idea. “The snow will accumulate on the board and, without the P-Tex base, we will lose glide”, warns Sébastien Boisvert. He also recommends wearing thin-soled shoes, “to get as close to the board as possible” and gain control and feel.

On the frozen river of Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, a stone’s throw from the huts where amateur fishermen tease tomcod, some also play with a net and lines, but it’s more to try to catch balloons . Don’t miss it: the unusual scene only happens once a year, in February, bringing together around ten mixed teams, each made up of four players.

This very special snow volleyball tournament has been organized for 10 years now under the leadership of Stéphanie Leduc, a primary school teacher and a great sportswoman, on the sidelines of the famous Festival of small fish in the channels. “The activity manager knew that I was very involved in my hometown of Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, especially with the organization of baseball tournaments for young people. He approached me to put on a sporting event, but I wasn’t ready to play snow baseball. Instead, I offered her a snow volleyball tournament, which continues from year to year,” she says.

The big challenge remains the installations for the day of this friendly tournament: telephone poles are driven into the ice a few days before, where their base freezes, then Mrs. Leduc installs a net and stakes with an elastic cord to delimit the field. If a layer of snow is present, it is beaten, but some years it gives way to ice, as in the 2023 edition. “If the ground is harder, the players equip themselves with pads to protect themselves” , she says.

The clothing, in onion skin, is also a function of the temperatures, with a coat and mittens in case of cold (not easy to orient your cuffs!), but many were able to play bare-handed this year thanks to the mercy of the mercury.

The teams, most of whom reoffend year after year, come from Mauricie (from Trois-Rivières, for example), but some travel from Thetford Mines. But at this tournament, it’s make or break: participants don’t train outdoors during the winter on a regular basis. Is this something that we could see taking hold over the years, as we see in Austria or Switzerland? “Some members have asked me how it works for the organization and creating a winter league would be fun. But I’m a little skeptical, I still rushed the first year, “concedes Ms. Leduc, who points out, however, that installations with a mobile field and net, as we see in some parks in the summer, would be possible.

Even Montreal is timid; the first winter tournaments organized last year at Parc La Fontaine and in Griffintown did not come back in 2023, since they had been caused by the closing of the gymnasiums in January, informs us its artisan, Narcissé Nguyen, who nevertheless hoped to see the experience renewed and the new sport spread. Such a great way to smash the winter…

And you, do you practice a sporting activity usually reserved for sunny days by adapting it to winter conditions? Let us know, supporting photos.