It has been a whirlwind these last few months. I say that with the lightest of hearts and with the utmost gratitude! I had a wonderful time at the Bay of Fundy Sea Kayak Symposium in Argyle, Nova Scotia – hosted by Committed 2 the Core. The hospitality and food there is unbeatable, not to mention the faces of a vibrant Sea Kayak Community!
Then I was whisked down to Pacific City, Oregon to attend Lumpy Waters Symposium hosted by Alder Creek Canoe & Kayak. As always, it was an amazing time of fun coaching, lively spirits and I even was brought to expose my little known passion for singin’ my little heart out in front of a crowd. It is not every day that we get to be vulnerable like that in front of so many people…to me this speaks miles for the community to which I belong.
Since this fall whirlwind of paddling and symposium I have taken some time to reflect. More and more I am listening to the wise voice within and learning to create some quality time for me – Learning to heed my own teachings. In guide training programs and incident management scenarios for sea kayaking, we always teach a certain “order of operations” as it relates to a rescue scenario:
“Who is the most important person in any rescue?”
Answer: Me the rescuer.
Then it follows that we secure the safety of the group and finally we take care of the person in need. Without making sure you, the rescuer – the actor in the scenario, is safe and secure first, the potential outcome of the rescue begins to look less favourable. This is some advice I am learning to use in my day to day life.
In the buzz and excitement of what makes up the whirlwind that I have only begun to describe above, I find myself feeling unable to find time to recharge in a meaningful, reflective way. The excuse that so often comes up is, “I have no time.” I think I have learned this lesson before…
In my 3rd season of guiding on Vancouver Island, working trip after trip, back to back, cooking all day, guiding 8 people in the Canadian wilderness… I was almost burnt out. I was exhausted and although I loved sharing guided wilderness experiences with guests from around the world, I was close to tears by the end of July. Perhaps I was just about at my breaking point, just on the edge of total exhaustion when I realized that I could literally cut wood and carry water, chop onions and fix tarps all day. The list of things that need to get done might never end, so unless I could stop, MAKE TIME and do something for me, I might never FIND TIME.
I learned that summer to stop and read for 20 minutes at a time; To go and sit near the waters edge for 15 minutes and breath deeply; To take some time to listen to the stars at night. By the end of the summer I felt better than when I had started. The funny thing was, is that even though I was taking time away from cutting wood and carrying water, the busy stuff… the trips continued to run smoothly, maybe better.
It is a simple lesson, it seems and I have clearly learned it at least once before. What feels different this time is that I listened to the call well before I became overwhelmed… like a precautionary does of self love. To rediscover the wild parts of the self that are waiting to be heard. Ahh… sweet excitement in the knowledge that I am learning to listen to the call and more importantly learning how to to answer.
“Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window
toward the mountain presence of everything that can be
what urgency calls you to your one love?
What shape waits in the seed of you
to grow and spread its branches
against a future sky?”
– David Whyte
Birthdays, signposts & celebrations!!!! A day of reflection! I’m on the water today, paddling with aspiring guides! I love my work, I am grateful for my opportunities and the people who mirror myself back to me. Take a breath today and notice the magic! – It is everywhere if only we can find the eyes to see!
I was recently asked for my opinion around how we can encourage more women into the sport of Sea Kayaking. This has been a topic that has been circling my awareness for some time now and as a woman in sea kayaking, I feel it deserves some further investigation. It may be true that there are more men participating in sea kayaking than women; We see this represented at symposium, in coaching demographics and on the water. However, the question itself of how we might encourage more women into sea kayaking, might be missing the point.
If, for a moment, we set aside the polarizing aspects of gender and look at general participation in sea kayaking, perhaps we can see more deeply why more PEOPLE don’t get involved in our wonderful, albeit fringe, sport. If you are a sea kayaker, you can probably identify your motivations for sea kayaking – fitness, friendship, community, time in nature/outside, love of the water, personal challenge, to overcome fears….
The reasons that we participate in sea kayaking are varied and diverse, just like our community of paddlers. In the same breath, we need to acknowledge the various different styles of paddling that people participate in. From flat water touring in lakes and calm water; to long challenging expeditions circumnavigating continents; rough, adrenalin packed play around waves, surf and rivers; technical rolling skills with traditional blades; racing and glide at high speeds; and so much more…we all find a niche within the sport that suits our needs, hopefully.
This is the point… we are diverse community of paddlers, with a range of motivations for participation in the sport. So what then are the barriers that inhibit newcomers from joining? I can identify some obvious offenders like time, money, knowledge and fear, however I will highlight that these affect both men and women. (It could be argued that it is more challenging for a certain demographic to overcome these challenges, but I’d rather not go there right now.)
Ok, Kate, so what’s the solution here?
With such a mix of paddlers, motivations and challenges how can we build our community to create a stronger more inclusive and unified adventure sport?
We are all paddlers, regardless of what kind of waters we like to paddle — this needs to be a part of our dialogue. To be a paddler does not mean you must surf the biggest waves or roll in 200 different ways; it also doesn’t require that you paddle thousands of miles around countries…it might mean you paddle around your local lake. There is room for all kinds of paddlers in this community, we need to foster acceptance around this reality.
What this looks like in practice is clear communication around paddling events and excursions. In creating space for a discussion around individual expectations, goals and desires, participants can more accurately select a paddling partner or group that suits their needs. This way we don’t scare new paddlers in conditions over their heads and we can limit frustrations held by paddlers waiting at the front of the group, wanting to push harder. There is nothing more important in building a strong, healthy and vibrant community than clear communication and acceptance of diversity.
My call to action here is to build acceptance around all genres of paddling (from calm water paddles to rough water play), to support newcomers to the sport and cultivate clarity around expectations on our trips and events. There is room for a little bit of everything in this community, but it requires support from all angles. Love what you do, inspire others to do what they love.
I started working as a Sea Kayak Guide out of Vancouver Island over 10 years ago. In one of those early summers we (myself and a two other guides) bought charts for our dream trip. It was a trip that was accomplishable in about 8 days; a timespan that might accommodate the short periods of time we had off between working days. The route included some of the more rugged and committing coastline that the Central Coast of British Columbia had to offer; it was complete with plenty of headlands and open water crossings that might be friendly enough in calm to moderate conditions but that also have the potential to be extremely challenging, chunky sections of water if the wind, wave and tidal streams are not fully cooperative. The trip was to begin in Bella Bella, a small coastal community at 52 degrees latitude on the BC Central Coast that is home to the Helitsuk First Nation. The plan was to paddle the outside of the many archipelagos that dot the coastline southwards towards Calvert Island, around its western border, crossing to the BC mainland, south around Cape Caution and back to the Vancouver Island shores of Port Hardy.The dream never came to fruition back then. The charts remained in storage and were sadly never used by the three of us who had had such lofty goals as to accomplish a personal trip in the middle of the summer work season. But hey, you’ve got to dream! It is worth it…and here’s the proof:
This summer I set aside 9 days to dust off the old charts and catch a ferry to Bella Bella with Nick Cunliffe, all set with enough food, gear and supplies for the 8 days we had given ourselves to enjoy the planned 150 Nautical Mile (Nm) paddle it would take us to return to Port Hardy.
Dreams are funny things, aren’t they? You dream something, just enough to make it happen and the challenge then comes in the living of that dream, which may certainly not end up the way you had expected, but might just surprise you in the best of ways! Which is absolutely what happened as we paddled west out into the wild BC coast waters and then turned south towards Goose Island in our first two days on the water. We were expecting to see a few kayaking parties along the way as it was the week of July 1st (that’s Canada Day) and prime kayaking season. But apart from the odd sport fisherman occasionally spotted and two lone kayakers on a distant beach, we were alone with the wolves, the cougars and the bears.
On our third day, sat on the north end of Goose Island, we had a tough decision to make. With winds forecast to be NW 30-40 kn into the foreseeable future we were unsure whether it would be wise or even fun to continue southwards on our journey. We found ourselves sitting on a beautiful west facing, crescent beach having to decide whether to continue south towards our destination or to play it safe, staying to explore the archipelagos around Bella Bella and having the option to catch a ferry back south if need be.
We decided to play it safe and have a little sleep in. We got on the water at the crack of 11 AM in winds that were forecast to be 20-30 kn from the northwest, but found it an easy and playful paddle as we crossed the 5Nm to the Tribal Group in a lumpy crosswind. It felt like we were backtracking, each paddle stroke taking us further away from our destination. But we had a plan: we would have a short 8Nm day and rest in preparation for the potential long paddling days we might have ahead if the forecast improved. We camped on a small slice of beach that was only just big enough for our tiny tent. We were relieved that the later forecasts called for winds to abate and ease to a manageable 20-30kn for next few days. The relief was two-fold really: on the one hand, we had the weather window we needed to continue south along the western shoreline and also …mmm… we were excited that we would be soon leaving the small island beach that, as it turns out, brown bears also seem to enjoy as there was some scat just a paw’s reach from our shelter. It is always good to be reminded that we are not the only ones out here.
With manageable tailwinds forecast and calm winds in the early morning hours, we set out on the water at 5 AM to make up for the previous short day. In the company of sea otters against an ever changing, yet equally dramatic landscape, we made our way to the north tip of Calvert Island. It had been an easy paddle, as long as you include the fact that we had 2nd breakfast and lunch packed in there between 26 Nm before noon. The beach we had arrived at was white sand laden and if I showed you the picture, you would see it could have been an island in the Caribbean. Which, by the way, is where we might have lucked out! You see of 8 days on the water, 6 of them demanded stripping off the Kokatat Whirlpool Bibs to spend time on the beach in bathing wear. That’s right folks, right here on the BC West Coast… it wasn’t just beautifully sunny, it was amazingly hot!
It was here we had our second big decision to make. Should we paddle east and then south down the protected inside passage of Calvert Island potentially making use of a wind funnel for a downwind run, or do we make the committing move of pushing around Cape Calvert and along the exposed coast of the island’s rocky shores? Weather looked favourable, with no major red flags or winds beyond 30kn, we decided to make the move around the Cape. This was, by far the most technically and mentally challenging leg of the journey as it required paddling out into 3-4 meter seas with rebounding waves off the steep rocky shores and an ebb current running against the swell direction. It was a confusing mess of deep troughs, waves – some breaking, threatening boomers and multi-directional swell! The technical challenge of reading the erratic heaving seas and moving quickly though the rough water was invigorating, but the mental challenge in recognizing the level of commitment we were undertaking if the seas were to remain in this state remained at the top of the list. We paddled out beyond the lumpy and unpredictable seas to more offshore waters where things began to organize and become truly fun and even surfable. Our beautiful beach that night was well earned after a long day of paddling to make up miles and topped off with some adrenalin packed paddling.The next few days were long ones on the water taking us through varied sea states against a sunny sky. We made sure to balance paddling, coastal exploration, calorie consumption all the while covering the miles we needed in order to complete the trip. The rugged coastline filled with surf beaches that go for miles, the tenacious lone tree that stands its ground alone on an exposed island, the wolf prints in the sand and the glimpses of marine life that we are so privileged to be witness to, all these things are why I love these wild places; without dreams I may never have had the chance.
The last 2 days of paddling took us into the classic west coast sea fog that obscured visibility to less than ¼ mile. It made for interesting padding, navigation and surprise arrivals when all of a sudden an island appears right in front of you. It was a classic BC coast dream trip! No doubt about it! There are many anecdotes that I might tell you, but I think it’s best that you go make your own memories.
But if I had to tell just one… We were paddling the stretch of open water between Calvert Island and the Mainland Coast side by side with a quick but relaxed pace in a low undulating swell. All of a sudden, I’m so happy I happened to be looking seaward, at that moment a 20 pound salmon jumped out of the water just in time to hit Nick “SMACK” in the ribs as it was then deflected onto his back deck and quickly back into the water. It all happened in less than 10 seconds, but the effect was long-lasting! I spent the remainder of the crossing belly laughing at the sight of it, as Nick dealt with the aftermath of being smacked by 20 pounds of fish and the worry that he might now be bear bait as a few silvery scales on his t-shirt glistened in the sun accompanied by the perfume of salmon.
You never know what might happen out there, but you have to go there to find out. It’s not every day that the weather cooperates, your skill and fitness allow you to accomplish your goals, but when it happens it reminds you of why you bothered to dream in the first place.
Adventures outside of Canada this year have dominated my time. From the coasts of Anglesey and the Llyn Peninsula in North Wales, up towards Scotland and the Inner Hebrides, to the waters off the coast of Tasmania and Australia and even some time spent paddling the oceans and rivers of Chile, it has been non stop paddling this year taking me to a diverse range of beautiful and challenging waters. So it is with renewed eyes that I return to my home waters to explore some of the gems of the west coast of BC.
With the moon in the beginning of it’s cycle creating Spring tides for a period of 2 – 3 days following the new moon, there is a perfect opportunity to try to paddle 3 tide races in 3 different locations on the BC coast: Skookumchuck Narrows, Surge Narrows and Okisollo Rapids. I had skimmed my tide book searching for dates where Skookumchuck would be running and my search ended when my eyes stopped at the number 16.4. It is an expression of current speed, that is 16.4 nautical miles per hour. That’s as fast as a BC ferry cruises; it is a constant stream of water moving 30 kilometers an hour through a tight constriction, creating a beautiful surfable wave…provided the correct variables. I’ve been paddling ‘Skook’ for years in both longboats and river kayaks and I have seen it at 12 knots but never at 16.4. I wanted to see it, even if it meant spending a little more time watching the wave rather than surfing it and the tides on the days following were setting up perfectly for the other 2 races up the coast. So I headed out with Nick Cunliffe in Sterling Reflections to have a look, first at Skook. It was great to meet up with Mike Gill (from Deep Cove Kayaks) and his dad out there for a play and a night out on the BC coast.
The tide was really low when we arrived and the wave quickly built as the current speed reached 8 knots in under an hour creating a steep and playful green face that we could have some fun on. By the end of 2nd hour the wave had developed a stout foam pile and the downstream waves had followed suit. By the end of the 3rd hour the water was moving a healthy 16 knots and the front wave greened out to a big, boiling lump with two massive holes behind it that would surely keep a sea boat in their clutches for some time. There was also a meaty outwash that I did not fancy tackling in my longboat, so instead…we made dinner. It was delicious, with the soundtrack roar of whitewater playing in the background. As the 4th hour approached and the tide height continued to rise the wave reformed as a green glassy shoulder with a small white pocked on the left… it was worth the wait! The day ended with a sunset paddle back to Egmont government dock and a dark sky as the moon is new, just a sliver in the sky.It was a morning of ferries; first ferry at 630am, second one at 830 and finally a third at 1130, depositing us on Quadra Island with enough time to pack boats and paddle out to Surge Narrows for maximum flood stream. The wave was a fun change from the huge hydraulics and massive whirlpools we had experienced the day before at Skook. Surge has personality though! It is a technical little wave with some fun features behind. It was great to see local Spirit of the West guides Robin Humphreys and Sam Lam out for a play at this little gem!
Two races down, one to go…
Day three took us 6 nautical miles north to Okisollo Rapids. I have spent far less time at this venue than the previous other two. It is a bit more of a mission to get here and so often is a second choice because of that…which is crazy!!!…because this wave is a beautiful, steep, green face when it is at its best. We had to wait for the tide to rise a little before it became surf-able, but again, it was worth the wait for some beautiful, long, clean rides and some smooth turns. As the wave began to flatten out at the end of the 4th hour we loaded our gear back into the kayaks and rode the last of the flood back to surge narrows for some rum and coke and dinner.
So, can it be done? Can you catch 3 different world class BC tide races in 3 days? Answer: of course you can!! It’s all park and play (more or less), you just need a little motivation to get the job done! I recommend starting with something huge. Something that makes you think twice, something that scares the drysuit pants off of you, something like Skook at 16.4 knots. After that, everything else seems easy(ier)!
Check out this cutie little story about a wicked woman shredding the waves at PPS!
Sometimes, when adventure calls, you must answer. I have always been what my mother called a ‘seeker’; my life, it seems, has been based around saying yes, going with the flow and trying to enjoy every moment for what gifts it offers.
My adventure to the UK this past winter has taught me so much! It has humbled me as a paddler, created learning opportunities beyond my wildest dreams and shown me beauty in places I never knew existed. I know that travel is expensive, it costs the earth and it takes you away from your home waters and community, but it does wonders for perspective.
Arriving back to the smell of the Pacific Ocean, the musty perfume of cedar trees and the call of the Canadian raven gives me pause for thanks and gratitude for the sense of place I have here on my Vanvouver Island home.
I miss this place, and arriving back here after a time away from the routine of everyday life, I have renewed eyes from which to see it. I am excited to see the beaches dotted with wolf tracks, the pounding surf of the outer island, the coolness of the rainforest and the warm waters (compared to the Irish Sea) of the Pacific.
The only challenge with travel is that it opens up new possibilities and my dreams are bigger now! There are so many places to see, places both far and near… With all the wonderful places to see in this world, I wonder what I have yet to discover here?
I am so grateful for the opportunities that are afforded to me, the people I have met along the way and am excited for what might happen next.
What have I learned this time around?Dream big! Open your heart to adventure both far and near… And find the courage to say yes to the unknown!
Have fun out there!
It’s not every day that a girl gets to go to Scotland and paddle in some of it’s most stunning locations. I hadn’t really imagined paddling in this place before, but Nick Cunliffe and I made it a mission to explore as much as we could in the time we had. I’ve heard of some of the exciting tide races like the Falls of Lora, the Grey Dogs and the whirlpool in the Gulf of Corryvreckan, but never did I imagine the beauty of this place and the history that goes along with it! We had a few days to explore the area but the tides were Neaps so epic surfing in those spots listed above would just have to wait.
We set out with the intention of heading to the Garvellachs via the Grey Dogs on the north end of the Island of Scarba. This is a pinch point where tidal races form as water is squeezed through a small channel. I will have to come back to see this place on a spring tide to surf it, most certainly!! But this time round in Scotland I am spending time enjoying exploring the area by way of kayak, rather than park and play.
It seemed that we were fighting a headwind no matter where we went but the beauty of the place seemed to overshadow the challenge of the wind. There are not many trees here, just sheep, but it makes it possible to see the rocky contours of the land and the ruins of centuries of human habitation.
Working with tides to arrive at the Garvellachs (Scottish Gaelic: Garbh Eileaich) or ‘The Isles of the Sea’ made for a beautiful afternoon paddle and arriving at an old Monastic settlement felt magical! There is a certain mystery surrounding many of these islands in the Inner Hebrides and spending a night on amongst the ruins of ‘Holy Isle’ where it is said St. Brendan the Navigator created a monastery in 542 AD was a special treat.
I was a little nervous as we timed the tides and headed for the Gulf of Corryvreckan. It’s reputation for a large whirlpool (it is even marked on the chart!!!) and the wind against tide I had seen from a distance the day before make it a place that you don’t want to mess with. We paddled through at slack water with a bit of push heading east. There was turbulence in the water and I wish I could have spent 12 hours there watching the water as it moved through the gulf…but the wind was cold and so were my hands so we paddled on to find somewhere to have a cup of tea and some porridge in the early morning. I’ll be back to this spot in the near future to paddle the tide races and explore more of this beautiful coastline!!! Thanks Scotland!
I had the pleasure of heading out with 9 other paddlers, some locals from Sydney (the New South Wales Sea Kayak Club) and a few from Queensland, out from Watsons Bay…around South Sydney Head and along the cliffs towards Diamond Bay. There was a good collection of paddlers and I felt a bit nervous as most of them were in Tide Race Pace 17’s and there were a few Rockpool Taryns in the mix as well, so I felt like I might get a run for my money!
We set out and around the heads and as we turned right and headed south in moderately bumpy seas and a light South East wind, the rain began in the most satisfying of ways. It wasn’t a slight mist…no it was a proper downpour and as I paddled on I was hootin’ and hollerin’ from the sheer joy of paddling in such heavy rain in a warm climate, on a warm ocean!!!
I should have known that there might be something more to accompany that rain. As we turned around at Diamond Bay to start our return trip along the vertical cliffs, we heard the loud BANG of thunder ahead of us and as we sat in the pouring rain having a quick snack, more lightning and thunder. I’m really quite comfortable in big sea conditions, weather and wind…but lightning is one of those things that causes my stomach to rise into my throat and my anxiety levels to increase. So i put on my best “it’s gonna be all right” face and we began the paddle home as a tight group. With the heavy rain and sloppy seas it was challenging to see all other 9 paddlers so staying together became imperative.
The electric storm acted as a great motivator to paddle hard and fast as we surfed the waves with the wind behind us back towards the mouth of Sydney Harbour. The lightening storm passed in front of us and continued on to our right as we headed north and by the time we made it back to South Head the rain had subsided and the clouds lifted.
It was certainly a great paddle in the wild waters of the Tasman Sea. Big thanks to Rob Mercer from Expedition Kayaks for lending me a boat and getting me out there! I see there are so many amazing possibilities around this beautiful coastline!
There were glow-in-the-dark mushrooms, flying fish, birds with wingspans of more than 3 meters and Fairy penguins calling out from beneath the rocks. Sounds pretty trippy, eh? All it took was a journey down under to the southern latitude of 42 degrees and a small adventure in the Tasman Sea.
There are so many places to explore in this world that sometimes the possibilities overwhelm me. So the solution seems to be to bite off small chunks at a time and enjoy each piece to its fullest and that’s just what I have been up to.
Arriving in Tasmania was a shock to my system as the hot sun beat down on my tender Canadian winter skin. I covered up with plenty of sunscreen, long sleeve Kokatat thermals, a wide brim hat and set out with a few locals to paddle a little piece of the Eastern shore of Southern Tasmania… a modest 30 nautical miles around Maria Island.
The two days were sun drenched and windy as the afternoon sea breeze picked up and we paddled clockwise around Maria Island trying not to think of the likely close presence of sharks. The shoreline was plenty distracting though to keep my mind far from the idea of a blockbuster sequel. Maria Island, although small, boasts peaks of 700 meters that fall strait into the sea and although I’m not a geologist, the rock formations were breathtaking. Cruising along the coastline, I watched as it morphed from layers of sandstone filled with fossils on the northern tip, to metamorphic layers folded and bent above giant caves, progressing finally to the monolithic slabs of red granite that lined the southern end of the northern most island.
As we made our way southwards with a 15 – 20 knot headwind we were visited by gliding albatross that seemed very interested in our strange crafts, penguins that darted about underneath our boats in the turbulent seas and passed black-faced cormorants that lined the rocks with their wings outstretched to dry in the breeze.
After a long day on the water we relaxed under a moonless sky in a protected cove listening to the forest filled with sounds of Kookaburra, penguins, possums and wallabies. It was an intense cacophony of forest sounds that made sleep a restless endeavor, but somehow magical; I was grateful to be in this beautiful spot beneath the towering Gum trees.
The morning was leisurely, after all, I can’t stand to rush and we paddled westward towards an isthmus that joins north and south Maria Island. We landed in small surf on a white sand beach filled with turquois water and carried our boats a short distance over the sand to the west side of the Island where another bay just as beautiful as the one we had just left was waiting for us. We paddled northwest over shadowy shoals and landed briefly to check out the remnants of red brick solitary confinement chambers that were used when this island was once a Penal colony. (Looking out from the cell, it is hard to imagine that this place was used for the purpose of punishment as its inherent beauty is hard to overlook, but with four brick walls around you I suppose one could be anywhere and nowhere. I was glad to have the freedom of my kayak!)
We left Maria Island and paddled back towards mainland Tasmania with just enough wind for the locals to unfurl their kayak sails using the wind to aid their journey homeward. In the end, it was a bite-sized journey filled with tones of new sights and sounds. Sometimes I am tempted to place more value on larger more marathon style trips but in this new place all I am left with is an intensely satisfying sensation… WHAT A TRIP! ‘RIPPA!’
Big thanks to Geoff Murray –token Tasi local.
Tasmania!?! The globe trotting adventures continue with an adventure to Australia. I’ve been taking in some of the coastline, messing around in longboats on a few rivers and involved with some training with the local club. What a blast! I can’t wait to check out more of this beautiful ocean!!!
I’ve been loving my Werner Sherpa for Coastal Play Sessions, messing around rocky coastlines, surfing the incoming swell…even taking the sea boats to the river. Woot woot! I love paddling!
Well I’ve made the decision to embark on a different sort of journey into the world of academia. I will be working on my Masters in Environmental Education and Communications at Royal Roads University in Victoria British Columbia.
I am excited about the mind expanding possibilities that this program can offer me and hope that it will lead to new avenues and more exciting adventures in the future. The most wonderful thing about this program is that aside from a month long residency on the campus itself, the rest of the program is designed to be completed in an online environment, allowing for me to continue my travels around the world and through the waters!!! Who says technology is a pain in the butt!?!
Here is a little video introduction i made to introduce myself to my peers in the program. Enjoy!
Location: Pucon, Chile
My first adventure to Chile some years ago gave me a taste of some of the white water that Region X (10) has to offer. The Futaleful Valley delivered with beautiful canyons, challenging rapids and a thriving white water community. I have been longing for more and so when the opportunity arose to travel to the mountain town of Pucon, Chile, set beneath the still active Volcano Villarica, cloaked in Araucaria forests (Monkey Puzzle trees) and surrounded by clean flowing rivers, I jumped at the chance. Who wouldn’t!?! Traveling by bus with Santiago Berrueta and Nick Cunliffe we arrived in the small pueblo and were welcomed by an active, smoking Volcano.
The town was quaint and definitely geared for adventure tourists but we had arrived in low season and from the beginning we felt like we had hit the jackpot! There were great hostal options, amazing food and friendly people all set against a stunning mountainous backdrop. Our excitement had been building as we flipped through the Whitewater Chile guidebook, it was all we needed to get a little bit of info and a whole lot of stoke about paddling in the region. We took a walk through town, found the friendly Ben May at his storefront of KayakChile.net, where we were easily able to arrange boats, paddles, a river shuttle and some great conversation on the way to paddling both the Liacura and Trancura rivers close by the city.
The lower Liacura and Lower Trancura rivers are class II/III, both weaving their path through river valleys and with some fun and challenging sets of rapids. It was enough to get our faces wet and to feel the pulse of the river back underneath us. I have stepped away from whitewater boating in pursuit of surf kayaking and longboat surfing on the ocean, but have so enjoyed my return to the river, reading it’s messages and being reminded that ‘you can’t push the river’!!
After feeling confident in our skills and settling into our rented equipment, we were all set to take on the upper section of the Trancura. This section is a class IV river that took us higher up the valley with the volcano in clear sight as the rivers’ waters flowed over the black, once-molten rock that told the explosive the story of Villarica volcano.
It was a challenging and amazing river! Complete with pushy water, pool-drop rapids, a few must make moves, a portage and a few sweet play-spots with good eddy service, the river served up everything we needed! The most wonderful feeling for me, was found in the process of scouting a line, making moves on the water with intention, arriving at the bottom only to look up, smile and see a volcano staring back at you through the forested mountains and the blooming flowers of springtime. Ya… I know that all sounds dreamy, but unfortunately that was how it felt! The combination of moving through a new and beautiful landscape and the challenge of running unknown whitewater gave me pause to be particularly greatful. I was also happy to be able to travel with my Kokatat Drysuit, and PFD, my Seals Spray Deck and my Sweet Helmet, in a relatively small package and roll into some sick whitewater in Chile.
From breathtaking sea kayaking and longboat surfing on the beautiful Chilean coastline, to whitewater adventures in the Andean mountains, this trip has rekindled my love for the river and inspired me more deeply to experiment with the push of water. I feel very lucky indeed!
Simposio De Kayak Pacifico Sur
Location: Valdivia, Chile
When I received an email in my inbox in regards to a Sea Kayak Symposium to be hosted by Pueblito Expeditiones in Valdivia, Chile, I did not hesitate once in making my decision to go. I have had the opportunity to paddle in Chile once before in 2008 when I was guiding a few trips in Region XI, the second most southern region of Patagonia, and jumped at the opportunity to return to the southern hemisphere. The Simposio de Kayak Pacifico Sur was a huge success bringing over 75 eager students from around Chile and Argentina together in the small coastal community of Chaihuin for four days of sea kayak instruction, delicious food and classic, friendly Chilean hospitality.
I flew from Vancouver BC, Canada to Toronto; from Toronto to Santiago, Chile and finally landed in Valdivia in the upper most reaches of Patagonia. It was springtime when I arrived in late October and leaves were just budding on the trees with a showing of early spring flowers. Temperatures were fairly warm at 39.8 S latitude, 73.2 W longitude and the multitudes of local and migrating birds were a sight to be seen. (It was in Chile that my curiosity for bird watching was first sparked.) As we drove the road to the city of Valdivia it was easy to spot the Black Necked Swans in the marshes to the roadside and my excitement started to swell.
As the coaching team assembled in Valdivia, we were all warmly greeted by Pueblito Expeditiones’ three person team of Eduardo Saldias, Roberto Saldias and Jorge Muller with gusto. The coaching line-up included a solid team of UK paddlers Jeff Allan, Simon Osborne, Nick Cunliffe and Roger Chandler and then a ragtag team of North American coaches with Ben Lawry, Steve Maynard, Roger Schuman, James Manke and Santia Berrueta….what a fun team to work with!
We had an amazing array of venues in which to teach that included a calm river to work on strokes and maneuvers, Los Cormillos (the fangs) to practice rough water maneuvers and rock gardening and a beautiful sand beach with some beautiful surf breaks for long boat surfing. There was something for everyone. Even the weather represented well with mostly sun, peppered with the classic rain and wind storms that roll in from the South and leave just as quickly to remind us all that weather down in Patagonia is a very changeable thing; it kept us on our toes.
Conditions were fun for instruction with low to moderate swell and typical building afternoon winds that helped to create perfect conditions for students to learn to use tow lines, learn the necessity of holding tightly to one’s boat during rescues and serving up fun surf breaks with clean shoulders to practice boat control in dynamic conditions.
The classic dishes of Caldillo (soup), muscles, salads and Carne (meat) kept out bellies warm and the Kuntsmann local brewery was a great taste of the local micro brew culture. But most fun of all was all the students who brought their excitement and passion for the sport to make the four-day event unforgettable.
The showing of Kokatat ‘Traje Seco’ (drysuits) was incredible and we just had to take a photo of all the suits together in a rainbow of colour. It is no doubt, based on water temperature and changeability of weather, that staying dry is a necessity down there in Patagonia and it seems that Kokatat is just the ticket for staying dry in comfort!
My biggest challenge was teaching for 4 days in Spanish. It is a language I learned years ago, but I had such a fun time teaching kayaking and dusting off my conversational language, making for lots of laughs and a wonderful learning atmosphere. I had expected the experience to be a good one, but I could not have imagined that I would have been able to fall in love with Chile all over again. I hope to return next year with even better Spanish for more adventures with an inspired South American paddling community!! I have to say it was also wonderful to have The Hurricane Riders the Phantom Riders of Argentina, spreading the stoke across North America! I love being a part of our global paddling community!!
So it’s been over 2 weeks since Costain, Rowan, Chels and I set out on our road trip. We have made it to the East coast, just short of dipping toes in the Atlantic at Halifax, but we’ve been getting our full of the ‘chocolate river’ and loving figuring out the dynamic tidal races of the incoming tidal bore up the Bay of Fundy and into the Shubie.
It is such a cool sight to wait, watch, and then paddle hard to hit some big glassy up-to-ten-foot waves. It’s like tidal race surfing, beach break surfing and river running all tucked into one awesome package!!!
I’ve been loving my Werner ‘Sherpa’ paddle and my Kokatat ‘Icon’ Drysuit! Good gear makes great paddling SUPER!! (Shameless plug)
Tomorrow we will be heading to the south end of Nova Scotia for the Bay of Fundy Sea Kayak Symposium. So stoked to have met more of this great coaching team last eve and excited to meet all the students! Paddling culture rules!!
I’ll keep posting one photo a day on Instagram, so stay tuned…
#sterlingkayaks #kokatat #wernerpaddles #nikkirekmansales #sealssprakskirts
It has been a long summer of Sea Kayak Instruction, personal paddling, time with friends and family and the beginning of an Academic Adventure… so of course, I thought it would be great to head out with 3 good friends and 6 Sterlings Kayaks across Canada. We will travel from Victoria BC to Halifax NS, a part of Canada I have still yet to see. The catalyst for this trip is the Bay of Fundy Sea Kayak Symposium where Rowan Gloag, Costain Leonard and myself will be coaching sea kayaking with a great team of coaches and a pile of inspired students!!! We will have our resident historian along for the ride as well, Chels, who i’m sure will help keep the trip real… and not let us get to kayak crazy!!!
I’ll be posting 1 photo a day via Instagram… so follow along on our 5 week adventure where the plan is adventure and the goal is good times!!! Paddle Hard and Play Safe!!!
#Sterlingkayaks #Kokatatwatersportswear #WernerPaddles #Nikkirekmansales #Sealssprayskirtsandaccessories
I have recently been enjoying my new Kokatat Icon drysuit. Not only do I love the T-Zipper closure but the colour options are amazing.
Check out this little blog post about non-verbal communications in rough water… or calm water, for that matter!!! Happy paddling!!
#KokatatWatersportsWear #SealsSprayskirts #NikkiRekmanSales #WernerPaddles
When we, The Hurricane Riders, planned a filming/surfing trip to a remote beach on the West Coast of Canada’s Clayoquot Sound, we were at the mercy of Mother Nature and Poseidon. With weather ranging from beaches soaked in sun until 10:30 pm on the year’s longest day, to the tarp soaked in rain just one day following… we hoped for swell, but none showed up. But check this… we still managed to surf, play and have a wicked good time!!!
Check out this latest THR film edited by Kate Hives!!!
Nikki Rekman Sales Blog – Kate’s Post
Photo Credit: Costain Leonard