Summer 2020 : The Rise of Outdoor Sports

5 minute read

The pandemic has disrupted the plans of many young athletes and their parents. In fact, the pandemic has disrupted the plans of quite a few people who love to move.

Across the globe, sports associations and schools have had to postpone activities related to team sports to avoid the potential spread of COVID-19.

How have athletes adapted to the pandemic? Which sports were most affected by the coronavirus? What were the impacts of COVID-19 on sports centers across Quebec?

For example, in the world of American football, the Big-10 and Pac-12 conferences in the NCAA announced the cancellation of their 2020 season. In total, more than 40 American university teams have decided to opt-out on the current season… it’s gigantic.

Not to mention the Canadian Football League, which had to cancel its 2020 activities to the great misfortune of Alouettes fans.

In Quebec, the provincial government had initially decreed a suspension of sport-study programs to prevent students from different classes from mixing. However, Premier François Legault had to back down and take a different approach because of the outcry caused by these harsh measures. If all goes well, young Quebecers will be able to resume their sports programs as of September 14.

In any case, the damage was already done for many athletes. The author of these lines had to put away his soccer cleats almost all summer long to replace them with sporadic hiking, running and new experiences.

Incidentally, those who live only on adrenaline and freshwater had to turn to new physical activities to quench their thirst for action.

As a result, several individual and outdoor sports have been on the rise in recent months.


You only have to go for a walk near a skatepark to realize that sport is rising from its ashes. Skateboarding wasn’t dead, but its popularity was certainly not growing.

But in recent months, skateboarding has been making a comeback.

Yann Fily-Paré, president of the Montreal Skateboard Association, recently explained to us the reasons behind this rise.

SUP and surfing

Skateboarding is not the only board sport to have benefited from the current conditions.

Just ask Hugo Lavictoire, owner of KSF, a company specializing in SUP, kayak and surf rentals and lessons. The summer has come at the same time as the progressive deconfinement. A perfect storm for his business located on Lasalle Boulevard in the South-West of Montreal.

“It pushed people to go outside because after the confinement, they absolutely needed to get out, while keeping their distance,” he says. The paddle board was perfect for that!”

“I saw an increase because the weather was very, very nice… especially in my rentals. If it wasn’t for COVID, would it have been the same? It’s hard to say. For the paddle board courses, I had about the same number of people as last year, but before we used to take eight people per course and now we take six because of the measurements… so yes, of course it has increased.”

Not only did people need to get out, they were also limited in their movements. And most of them had a better budget.

“Because people couldn’t go on trips, people decided to do activities here at home and we saw a lot of people from Montreal. The growth this year has been steeper because there were more people who had a budget to buy a board. People’s vacation budget went into buying equipment so we really saw an increase.”

“Plus, a lot of kids who don’t usually have a penny to their name have been able to buy a SUP board this year!”

But the year 2020 is about to come to an end for KSF, since the courses and the rental end at the end of September. Have you ever walked on water (on a SUP)? This is your chance to try it before it gets too cold.

Mountain biking

Cycling was already extremely popular before the arrival of the pandemic. However, one of the branches that took off is mountain biking, which was particularly popular this summer.

In the Vallée Bras-du-Nord, ridership has increased considerably.

“In all the parks, it has increased considerably,” admits Frédéric Asselin, VBN’s general manager. In our case, we’re at about 75% increase only in mountain biking, so it’s quite concrete.”

Whether it is in the Vallée Bras-du-Nord or in the other mountains of Quebec, the popularity of mountain biking is at its peak. And contrary to previous years, everyone is taking advantage of what our province has to offer.

“There’s a fashion, that’s clear. We’re definitely in it. If you add to that the beautiful weekends, COVID and the closing of the borders… you have to know that there are a lot of people who went biking in the Northern United States. We saw a lot of women and families on mountain bikes. There are smaller outdoor centers than ours that must have seen increases of 200%!”

Canoes and kayaks

If you have tried to go to a waterway this summer to cool off, you probably had trouble finding a place without traffic.

Most kayak and canoe rental businesses have made a small fortune despite their self-imposed restrictions.

“Great, great, great demand,” says Frédéric Asselin. ‘’We had decided not to offer the shuttle service (between departure and arrival) and we were expecting a big drop, but in the end, not at all. People were looking for water this summer, it was hot. Yes, we are a mountain bike destination, but we are also a river destination and it really peaked this summer.”

And it’s been the same everywhere in the SÉPAQ network. Not only have the outdoor destinations been popular in terms of equipment rentals, but traffic has made a remarkable leap forward in terms of camping and hiking.

Clearly, the pandemic has allowed a large segment of society to reconnect with nature. And if the trend continues, the mountains need to brace themselves… because snow sports are likely to be very popular this winter.