In the Beginning…
Paddleboard touring is not new. Many have blazed wilder paths before me. But let’s face it, the paddleboard community in Canada is a small one. Even the information superhighway is feeble at providing a wealth of literature on self-assisted, multi-day paddleboard trips.
There is however no shortage of inspiration out there: the solo Caribbean odysseys of the queen of paddleboard touring Susan Chaplin, the Malloy brothers and company rounding Point Conception for the first time on boards, the Laird Hamilton Atlantic endurance epic and of course, those sweet pics published in TSJ featuring the Joe Bark team cruising near Nootka Island (my favorite local surf island snaked by Yankees!).
More recently, Tom Jones became the first person to paddle the entire length of the California coast on a stand-up board over a period of three-plus months (he didn’t pack his own gear for the trip but when you consider the distance he covered, his was a huge accomplishment). Finally, let’s not forget to pay tribute to the king-pin of modern day, opean-ocean paddleboard racing – Jamie Mitchell, the seven-time consecutive world champion of the Molokai-Oahu race (arguably the most challenging endurance event on earth). If Mr Mitchell ever got interested in paddeboard touring, he could cover some serious distance (Atlantic crossing?). Anyway, it’s easy to feel humble in the company of oceanmen and woman like these.
Like many, I was first drawn to paddleboarding from the simple desire to stay in shape for hard-to-come-by surf sessions. Living as a surfer in Vancouver BC leaves you caught in a pseudo-landlocked situation. Unable to surf on a daily basis (closest wave is a six-hour mission to the outer island) yet still living and breathing to the diurnal pull of Mother Ocean.
Solution: slip out in the harbor for a few sunset paddles on your biggest surfboard. Get salt water in your nose, make your shoulders burn, hang with your favorite harbor seal and generally feel like you’ve just gone surfing. Better solution: start paddleboarding. Same effect but you go three times as fast, see more seals and start feeling like your part of that incredible Polynesian culture of watermen and women that you’ve always respected when you visit the big islands (you’re not).
I was stoked to get my first 12ft paddleboard made by a veteran south-island surfer from Victoria named Rainer, using what is probably one of the last Clark foam blanks. Although crude compared to any of the modern composite boards on the market, she was a speed demon on flat water compared to anything I’d tried before and I knew early on what I wanted to do with her.
Her big multi-day maiden voyage was a 70km, two-day journey up the inside passage from Vancouver to a friend’s cabin on Thormanby Island. Lucky for us we had very calm weather since it quickly became obvious that I was going to need a longer board with a full bow to handle any real chop and the capacity to carry a lot more gear. Must have new board.