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COAST&KAYAK Magazine The magazine of Pacific coast adventures and recreation

Volume 23, Issue 1


FREE at select outlets and online or by subscription

BC’s best

Our pick of winning locations to travel this summer

PM 41687515

Surf skis

Up close

Grizzlies in Alaska and dolphins everywhere

The slow but steady evolution of the faster way to paddle SPRING 2013



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Inside This issue’s cover

by Neil Schulman In late January Coast&Kayak Magazine put out a general call for submissions for photos for the cover of the Spring 2013 issue. The result was a great selection of snapshots from around the world, with submissions from as far as Norway and Australia. Some were action shots; some interesting situations and most simply nice scenics. In the end the choice was for Neil Schulman’s silhouette of a kayaker in Deception Pass, WA. It was the perfect mix of composition, colour, clarity and serenity, with some moody cloud cover to cap it off nicely. Neil is a regular Coast&Kayak contributor; you may have also taken one of his photography seminars at Alder Creek Canoe and Kayaks in Portland, Oregon. Visit his website for future classes.

Happenstance at Windy Point

Touring Whitewater Recreational


Forty years ago, a young American wanderer, Thom Henley, set out on a kayak expedition into Haida Gwaii. Little did he know that his trip would play a part in the protection of an area now considered one of Canada’s ‘Gifts to the Earth.’ Coast&Kayak is proud to present excerpts from Thom’s memoirs telling of Gwaii Haanas’ journey to become a national park.

Days of the dolphins


From pugnacious Risso’s dolphins to arguably the happiest creatures on earth, the common dolphin, James Dorsey continues his look at whales and their kin with an introduction to dolphins, including an experience involving a megapod.

Surf skis

41 If you enjoy engineless activities that allow you to travel faster than your own two legs can carry you, you’ll want to join Bob Putnam in this look at the history and development of surf skis, and how they offer more glide for less effort – with no need to learn how to roll.

First Word�����������������������������������������������������������������������4 Wildlife photography��������������������������������������������10 BCMTNA update������������������������������������������������������15 Planning and safety�����������������������������������������������16 BC Best Places 2013����������������������������������������������� 24 Best places to view wildlife������������������������������ 26

Best places to discover/re-discover������������� 29 Best arches�������������������������������������������������������������������31 Best waterfalls����������������������������������������������������������� 33 Best day trips������������������������������������������������������������� 35 Best historic sites����������������������������������������������������� 38 Instruction�������������������������������������������������������������������46 SPRING 2013

Crystal-X Proudly Canadian



The First Word

How to solve our ‘green’ paradox?

Spring 2013 

Volume 23, Number 1 PM No. 41687515

Find Us: Online: Back issues: Turn the carousel on our home page, click on the issue you want to read. Contact Us: General queries: Editorial: Advertising: coast&kayak Magazine is an independent magazine available free at hundreds of print distribution sites (paddling shops, outdoor stores, paddling clubs, marinas, events, etc.), and globally on the web. Paid subscriptions are available for those who prefer home delivery. Articles, photos, events, news are all welcome.

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It’s not easy to admit being hypocritical. And yet here I am. Hopefully it’s evident that a fundamental aspect of this magazine is the message of safe, respectful and responsible enjoyment of our marine environment and coastline with an appreciation for all things wild. Part and parcel is an underlying message of conservation, education and sustainability. And yet we are doing so through a printed product. And so the paradox: telling people of ‘green’ values while cutting down a forest. Yes, paper can be recycled, and I do know we as a society need wood and paper, and so there can be renewable working forests so long as we protect other values as well, particularly old-growth forests and the ecosystems reliant upon them. But still. It’s a nagging issue for me as a publisher. And the concern isn’t just the forest, but the energy expended in printing and distribution as well. I can take a bit of pride, I suppose, that Coast&Kayak (nee Wavelength) was one of the first magazines to go online way back in 1996 thanks to the visionary approach by then-publisher Alan Wilson (thank you Alan). So while it’s moot to say you’re available online in this day and age when every other magazine is as well, Coast&Kayak is available free online which means a huge and growing worldwide readership and a whole new audience that can be viewed as a carbon-neutral solution to this green conundrum. And so the environmental question becomes: should we consider forsaking print? Well, I love the print product and want to continue with it. There is a beauty to print magazines that computers can’t match. But here’s the harsh truth required by a realistic, responsible and ultimately sustainable business model: focus will increasingly have to go towards the online product to meet our goal of free and universal access while the print product will increasingly become a luxury item. Nothing else makes sense in this age. And if a luxury, how then to make the print magazine widely available to meet our mandate of promoting and expanding paddlesports? Selling the magazine on a newsstand is no answer. In fact, that is one of the most wasteful conventions on earth. About 2.9 billion of the 4.7 billion newsstand magazines printed each year are never read; enough wasted copies to circle the globe 20 times. It’s unconscionable, and yet common practice. So no, we won’t be doing that. We’re not changing anything just yet, but we are going to present our readers with two main options as part our long-term plan for the future: 1) Subscribe online for free and for all the benefits that come with an online subscription (which are vast!), or 2) Subscribe to the print magazine if you prefer reading us in print. Together this gives us a huge opportunity to improve the overall product, both print and online, and that’s the most encouraging aspect – a responsible use of resources, a growing readership and still preserving the print product niche. Hopefully it’s win-win. Anyway, it will be nice to slowly shed the green paradox. Even if the process is a slow one. - John Kimantas

A white-faced capuchin examines our kayak on a recent trip to the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica.

© 2013. Copyright is retained on all material (text, photos and graphics) in this magazine. No reproduction is allowed of any material in any form, print or electronic, for any purpose, except with the permission of Wild Coast Publishing. Some elements in maps in this magazine are reproduced with the permission of Natural Resources Canada 2010, courtesy of the Atlas of Canada. Also, our thanks to Geobase for some elements that may appear on Coast&Kayak maps.

Coast&Kayak Magazine is dedicated to making self-propelled coastal exploration fun and accessible. Safety and travel information is provided to augment pre-existing safety and knowledge. A safety course and proper equipment are advised before any exploration on water. See a list of paddling instruction locations at







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Happenstance at

Windy Bay

Haida Gwa Forty years ago, on June 21, 1973, a young American wanderer, Thom Henley, known to friends as Huckleberry, set out on a kayak expedition from Skidegate to South Moresby. He passed ancient Haida villages, foraged food from the intertidal zone and saw incredible creatures in the sea, but he also witnessed a disturbing amount of logging. Little did he know that his trip would be one piece of a varied story that led to the protection of an area now considered one of Canada’s ‘Gifts to the Earth.’ To mark Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve’s 20th anniversary, Coast&Kayak is proud to present excerpts from Thom’s as-of-yet unpublished memoirs telling of Haida Gwaii in a time undiscovered, and how a line on a map eventually gave birth to a national park reserve. 6



aii A story of Gwaii Haanas

Thom Henley sits amid a typically lush rainforest at Windy Bay. His early Haida Gwaii kayak trips with Glenn Naylor set the stage for its creation.


by Thom Henley

eading north, I decided to paddle the exposed east coast around Lyell Island. When the tide turned at midday I pulled into shore to wait out the ebb at a place marked Windy Bay. There was nothing particularly outstanding about this place compared to the countless others I had explored on my trip, at least not until I set foot into the rainforest. Here was the forest of fairy tales, an enchanting garden of moss-draped, massive trees: western red cedars, yellow cypress, sitka spruce and western hemlock boasting bases three to six metres in diameter. Fifty metres overhead the crowns of these conifers formed a cathedral dome where shafts of sunlight penetrated the mist and the sea breeze sent a perpetual rain of needles shimmering to the ground. There was little, if any, understorey here; instead a deep carpet of moss in a million shades of green covered the ground. Windy Creek flowed through this valley like a living artery, its crystalclear waters babbling over clean spawning gravel beds and forming eddies behind fallen trees where five species of salmon fry found shelter. Eagles perched in trees overhead eagerly awaiting the return of the salmon, while I meandered on trails made by centuries of travel by the world’s largest black bears. I listened to the call of the varied thrush and winter wren as if they were members of a Gregorian choir in a great cathedral. It was hours before I returned to the beach and started gathering firewood to cook dinner. I still had another hour or two before the tide started to flood again and I could resume my journey north. As my final bannock baked on the fire, an eagle landed in a tree behind me and

started calling relentlessly to its mate. I scanned the skies in vain, but then saw a dead eagle lying on the beach less than ten metres away. Holding the eagle carcass, I was astonished at the size. It was intact. Could it be saved for use as a stuffed specimen in the new Haida Gwaii Museum? I made a small offering to the eagle’s spirit, then carefully cut open and disemboweled the body cavity which I restuffed with damp moss. I had learned to keep fish fresh with this same procedure, so I felt confident the carcass would not spoil before I reached Skidegate, a few days’ paddle away. The eagle’s mate was still crying from the treetop when I loaded up the carcass into the stern of my kayak and paddled out of the bay. The sea was flat calm without a breath of wind, but soon a fresh, steady breeze came up out of the southeast and I decided to use my sail – a white bedsheet I had carried through my travels. Ten nautical miles away, and out of sight to me, a man had set anchor for the night on the north side of Vertical Point. Wanting to stretch his legs after a long day of salmon trolling, he rowed ashore in his skiff and hiked across the narrow neck of land to hunt for deer. After finding no game on the beach, he turned his eyes out to sea. What he saw that evening was baffling. A great eagle was flying low over the water, its wings wet and glistening in the sun. It was coming straight towards him. Though he had been a seaman all his life, this man had never before seen a kayak, and the wing-like movement of the paddle blades catching the last rays of the setting sun „ mystified him. SPRING 2013



Conservation The sun had already set before I made my landing on the beach. There amidst the silver grey beach logs I was surprised to see a Haida man with a sweater as weathered and hair as gray as the old cedar log upon which he sat. People behave oddly when they’ve been out of the social loop for awhile, so instead of the customary “hello,” I said nothing. Immediately, I thought of showing him my eagle. I fetched the carcass from the kayak stern and carried it up the beach, holding it out with both arms proudly. The old man stood up startled and took a few steps back, all the while watching me with intent. “Why do you bring me this eagle?” he said. “Because there aren’t any many left,” I responded. ––– A year and a half later in October 1974, Thom lay on a porch near the Tlell River in the early hours of the morning. He’d left the islands once and returned to build a cabin in Lepas Bay on the northern tip of Graham Island. He’d been heading south down the archipelago when another traveler stopped for the night and whispered into the darkness: “Anyone awake?” “I am,” Thom said. “What are you thinking about?” asked Ghindigin, or the Questioning One, a young Haida man, better known today as Guujaaw. I explained how I had been dreaming about my kayak trip the year before through the South Moresby wilderness, and how it pained me to think that it wouldn’t be the same with the



Images of kayaking Gwaii Haanas from those early years were difficult to come by; these came courtesy of several islanders. The top photo is of Benita Saunders, a woman who lived at Vertical Point where Tom first met Percy Williams. The middle photo is of kayakers nearing SGang Gwaay, and the lower at Cape St. James, though the kayakers themselves aren’t identified. If anyone can identify these people we would love to hear.

logging starting up on Burnaby Island. Ghindigin was instantly and intently interested. We took our discussion inside, lit an oil lamp and pulled out a map of the southern half of the Haida archipelago. Tree Farm License #24 held by ITT Rayonier had three cut blocks remaining to be logged in the South Moresby region: Blocks 3, 4 and 5.


“How far has the logging gone?” Ghindigin asked, for he had never been that far south on his islands before. I drew a line south of Talunkwan Island along the border of Blocks 2 and 3, extended it out into the Pacific in the west and Hecate Strait in the east and brought the lines back together again south of Cape St. James, the southernmost tip of the archipelago. “Proposed South Moresby Wilderness Area,” we printed boldly on the map. The Islands Protection Committee had been born.

to a Haida blockade on a logging road on Lyell Island in 1985. Elders were arrested and the world took notice. In 1987, logging stopped when Canada and British Columbia signed the South Moresby Memorandum of Understanding and a year later the parties signed an agreement to protect the area. In 1993, Canada and the Haida Nation signed the Gwaii Haanas Agreement, which led to the current cooperative management process, an internationally renowned model for conservation and natural resource governance. Thom reflects on the results of his efforts. It seems astonishing in retrospect that a line so casually drawn would appear on government maps from that day forward and galvanize a national debate over land use issues. It seems even more extraordinary that this same line on the map survived three government-appointed planning teams over more than a decade. The most remarkable thing of all is that the line we drew by lamplight beside the Tlell River in the autumn of 1974 is today the exact boundary that distinguishes the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site from the rest of the world. Now in 2013, Parks Canada and the Haida Nation are celebrating 20 years of working together with the carving of the Gwaii Haanas Legacy Pole. This 42-foot monumental pole will be raised in Windy Bay in Gwaii Haanas on Aug. 15, 2013 with a feast to follow in Skidegate on Aug. 17, 2013. Everyone is welcome. It might just be time to kayak into Gwaii Haanas again! An environmentalist, rights advocate and educator, Thom Henley has been the recipient of seven national and international human rights and conservation awards. The Haida name bestowed upon Thom is Yaahl Hlaagaay Gwii Kaas – Raven Walks Around the World.

Parks Canada, J. Shafto

Shortly after drawing the line on the map, the two founders of the Islands Protection Committee attended a meeting at the Skidegate Band Council office where plans to log Burnaby Island were being presented. Ghindigin had asked permission of his uncle, the Chief Councillor, to present their proposal at the meeting, but was told the two were only allowed to attend as observers. The small meeting room upstairs of the old Skidegate Community Hall was jammed when Ghin and I arrived. Percy Williams, the Chief Councilor of the Skidegate Band Council, opened the meeting by thanking all of the officials for attending. And then he told a story. It seemed he had been deer hunting one evening at Vertical Point when he saw a giant eagle approaching him from far out at sea, an eagle which appeared to be coming directly towards him. The Chief Councilor was more than halfway through the story before I recognized myself as the central character. This is the same man I’d met on the beach during my kayak trip. I hadn’t even recognized him. Percy completed the story and fell silent, then he added: “I’ve come to see our beautiful Islands differently since the day that eagle was brought to me. Maybe there isn’t so much left.” He paused to look back at me in the far corner of the room. “That eagle messenger is here tonight and I would like for him to speak,” he said. All eyes turned in the direction of Percy’s gaze and suddenly Ghin and I realized the meeting was ours. Over the next decade, the campaign to protect the area led Thom to travel across the country in a train known as the South Moresby Caravan. He and another young campaigner, John Broadhead, edited a seminal book, Islands at the Edge, with top scientists acknowledging the unique area as “The Galapagos of the North.” All this led

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Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site


Réserve de parc national, réserve d’aire marine nationale de conservation, et site du patrimoine haïda Gwaii Haanas

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This year, Parks Canada and the Haida Nation are celebrating 20 years of working together with the carving of the Gwaii Haanas Legacy Pole. This 42-foot monumental pole will be raised at Windy Bay in Gwaii Haanas on Aug. 15, 2013 with a feast to follow in Skidegate on Aug. 17, 2013. Everyone is welcome. SPRING 2013

Real. Inspiring. Unique. Vraiment.





Winning the

McNeil River lottery


Help us keep the world green! For over 20 years, Coast&Kayak (Wavelength) Magazine has been helping build the West Coast paddlesports community by providing a magazine dedicated to building skills, interests and knowledge. But the world is changing. We want to reduce our overall carbon footprint while maintaining a sustainable business model, and we hope you support this goal. Please choose an option! 10


1. Enjoy us free. Subscribe online. 1. Enjoy us in print by subscription. This is the carbon-neutral way to read us, as people did more than 177,000 times in 2012. It’s our way of remaining free and accessible to the world without impact. Also, read us before the rest of the world, enjoy enhanced content not available in print and never miss an issue as we send you a personal notice of each new magazine coming available. SPRING 2013

If you prefer receiving the print version of the magazine, we agree. It’s easier to read, it’s completely portable, the batteries never run out and it looks better. Continue to enjoy reading the print version by subscribing. Your ‘vote’ by subscribing is a show of support for the future of the print version of the magazine. Now at a reduced price!

by Chuck Graham


t sounded AS IF the grizzlies were right outside my soggy tent, but the sound was deceiving. The tide had drained out of upper Cook Inlet and three grizzlies were taking advantage of the clam bounty on the exposed mudflats, showing some uncharacteristic finesse by using one claw to pry open the shellfish. I felt like I had just won the wildlifeviewing lottery while camping among grizzly bears where McNeil River converges with upper Cook Inlet, one hour by floatplane southwest of Homer, Alaska. Better yet, I had the opportunity to photograph them in a setting where human impact has been minimal. There is one species of grizzly bear in the world (Ursus arctos), though it can also be called a brown bear. The grizzly is typically larger and darker in colour along coastal areas. South of Canada, grizzlies have been eliminated from 98 percent of their natural range of 150 years ago, though they remain abundant in Alaska and in some parts of Canada. I previously had the opportunity to travel with John Mionczynski in the Absaroka Mountains in Wyoming. After hiking all day we hung our food in a tree. Later, while we were sitting around the campfire, the conversation turned to grizzlies. In the mid-1970s, Mionczynski participated in Wyoming’s Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, live-trapping grizzlies to attach radio collars for tracking them around Yellowstone Naional Park. During the study Mionczynski had many close encounters with grizzlies. “I once had a grizzly run right over me,” recalled Mionczynski, a professional wildlife biologist for over 35 years. “I’ve been treed

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at least 25 times.” That being said, unless they’ve become accustomed to getting food or garbage from people, grizzly bears will usually avoid humans all together. They rarely attack people, with no documented attacks at McNeil River. When grizzly bears do attack, it is usually because they were surprised or felt threatened. If a grizzly attacks, let it know you are no threat by playing dead and covering your head and neck with your arms and backpack. Well over 100 grizzlies occupy the region at McNeil River. Larry Aumiller, former head biologist and ranger at McNeil River for 35 years for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, has counted as many as 72 bears at one time at the McNeil River falls. Aumiller is known as “the Diane Fossey of grizzly bears” for his intimate knowledge and close encounters with the bears. Many bears can be tolerant, and Aumiller has had more than his fair share of experiences with them over the course of his career. His book, River of Bears, highlights the first 20 years of Aumiller’s documentation of the McNeil River grizzlies from 1973-1993. He’s named many of the resident bears like Callie, Dakota, Dollie, Otis and Olberman. All the cubs and juveniles are all known affectionately as “goobers.” One of his more memorable encounters was with a bear named Teddy. “Teddy was so tolerant. She’s nursed her cubs five to eight feet away from me,” says Aumiller. “She once was lying at my feet and then rolled over on them.”  „

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I didn’t have any encounters that dramatic over my five-day stay camping on McNeill River, but I was woofed at by a large sow sauntering along the river’s edge, her two tiny cubs trying to keep pace as she ran down salmon swimming upriver. At one point she was just three metres away, that borderland between man and beast separated only by a stretch of cobble. The Bear Essentials Bears aren’t the most social creatures. Except for a female with cubs, they are only found in groups where food is highly abundant (such as salmon streams, berry patches and unfortunately places like garbage dumps), or during the breeding season. Male grizzlies roam the most, with territories ranging from 1,500 to 2,500 square kilometres, while females use areas of about 250 square kilometres. Grizzlies once inhabited open plains and valleys, in addition to mountain ranges, but as humans have occupied these lower areas grizzlies are now found primarily in the more remote and mountainous portions of their former range. All bears have good vision and will sometimes stand on their hind legs to obtain a better view of something that interests or concerns them. They also have an excellent sense of smell. They can run considerably faster than a human (up to 50 kmh) and are very good swimmers. After a long winter hibernating, grizzlies awake from their long slumber extremely hungry in early spring. Given a choice, bears will eat the richest food available, usually salmon but not always if people are nearby. Most encounters with bears that cause problems result from bears being attracted to unnatural foods. Safety: Whether on a kayaking or backpacking trip, in areas where you may encounter grizzlies, make lots of noise. Hike in groups if you can. Let bears know you are in the area and are a human. “Hey bear” usually does the job. Be especially cautious in grizzly bear feeding areas, like berry patches or where you see signs of bear activity such as tracks, scat or digging. Try to stay in open areas with good visibility. An animal carcass covered with vegetation and with magpies or ravens nearby may indicate a food cache – stay far away! All kayakers and hikers in grizzly country should carry a can of approved bear spray and know how to use it. If you encounter a grizzly, clap your hands and shout to alert the bear and move away. For grizzlies, don’t make threatening gestures or actions like throwing things at it and don’t try to stare the bear down. Never run away from any large predator as this may trigger a chase response. Camp away from areas where you see signs of bear activity. Keep a clean camp. Hang all food, trash and other smelly items 100 metres from camp and at least three metres above the ground and 1.5 metres from any vertical support, or store them in a bear-resistant container (commercial coolers are not bearresistant). Don’t burn food scraps in your fire. Keep tents and sleeping bags free of odors and don’t keep any food in your tent. Don’t sleep in the same clothes you wore while cooking, eating or cleaning fish. Don’t leave fish entrails on shorelines of lakes or streams – sink them in deep water. Chuck Graham is also a freelance writer and photographer in Carpinteria, CA SPRING 2013



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BC Marine Trails update

by Stephanie Meinke

An inside peek T

wo years ago, the BC Marine Trails Network was officially opened, with 80 approved campsites in two areas: the Gulf Islands and the northwest coast of Vancouver Island. The work, though, began three years earlier when a group of paddling club members came together to begin defining marine trails along the coast of British Columbia. This involved identifying suitable coastal campsites and combining these into proposals to present to government. They quickly discovered that in some areas such as the Gulf Islands, they could rarely define where one trail stopped and another began. So rather than thinking of a traditional linear path or trail, it is easier to understand the BC marine trail as a ‘network’ of launch sites and campsites situated wherever possible less than 18 kilometres apart along the whole 27,000 km coastline of BC. This network will allow paddlers to choose their own routes (create their own ‘trails’) to suit their own abilities and desires. So ‘BC Marine Trails Network’ is a long name but an accurate one. Most of the BCMTN sites are simply places to land and camp, meaning that these sites are usually in a relatively natural state with no development or amenities. The BC Marine Trails Network Association is making agreements with government agencies, First Nations and other stakeholders to allow continued camping on these sites. Since its grand opening during the Vancouver Island Paddlefest almost two years ago, the BC Marine Trails Network is quietly continuing to take shape. The dual focus of the work of the BCMTNA is identifying suitable sites and consulting with stakeholders in order to ensure some level of agreement for use by paddlers. With that in mind,

A look at the massive job of turning 27,000 km of coast into a documented system of trails we are very busy with the critical work of site inventory development and ‘ground proofing’ potential BCMTN sites. We are also very actively involved in consultations with various government agencies, most notably our partners at the Recreation Sites and Trails Branch. We have submitted proposals to them for the majority of Vancouver Island, its associated island groups and Desolation Sound. Consultation has begun on these areas. We have developed a good working association with BC Parks and the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. They also received our site proposals and we are in discussions with them regarding sites in their jurisdictions. We are also working closely with various coastal First Nations groups, key stakeholders in the Marine Trails initiative, and even coastal communities about potential additional campsites. A priority is improving access and launch amenities such as additional overnight parking spots. Core information about the BCMTN is found on the website and its map. If you go to the BCMTN website map at you will see ‘Access sites’ (blue icons) and ‘Campsites’ (dark green icons). These have gained some form of approval from government, First Nations and other stakeholders. Some of these are proceeding further SPRING 2013

Paddling Quatsino Sound, part of the BC Marine Trails system. Photo by Stephan Meinke.

through the referral process to establish them as ‘BC Marine Trails Recreation Sites.’ ‘Other sites’ (light green icons) are now beginning to appear on the map. These will increase significantly in number over the next few months. They are actually access points and campsites that are known and used by paddlers but not ones we have yet focused on. Most can be found in various guidebooks. A good number of these will eventually become ‘approved’ (by government and various stakeholders) as BCMTN sites. These ‘other sites’ are just a glimmer of the 1,400 or so possible landing and camping locations along the BC coastline identified to date by the BCMTNA and held in our database. This is the pool from which the most appropriate sites to add to the BCMTN are chosen. As the BC Marine Trails Network is such a huge project it will take many more years before it covers the whole length of the BC coastline. Showing the ‘other’ sites on the map is our way of demonstrating the size of the BCMTN vision. It has the added benefit of offering paddlers a look at other camping options so that they can more easily start their summer trip planning. What you can do this summer: Paddlers in general are known to care strongly about the environment and are traditionally conscientious and responsible. Conservation, leave-no-trace ethics and the respect these engender go a long way in assisting the BC Marine Trails Network. All paddlers can help build this trails network simply by increasing their knowledge of leave-no-trace principles ( and becoming stewards of the coast. Stephanie Meinke is president of the BCMTNA. COAST&KAYAK Magazine


Planning and safety

by Liam McNeil

Strength in numbers Knowing your paddling partner is a matter of safety


he low buzz of a helicopter broke the afternoon silence. In the distance, the yellow speck of a Cormorant 442 Search and Rescue helicopter appeared against the green mountainside. With unwavering aim, the craft directed its fuselage directly towards the small offshore island we rested on, growing steadily closer. Within moments of its first appearance, the helicopter came to hover forty feet above our beached kayaks. With the downdrafts blowing sand and our sprayskirts, we gave a confused wave to the faces peering intently down upon us. This was the first sign of a memorable experience. A few years ago, Genevieve Burdett and I were nearing the home stretch of our kayak trip from Port Hardy to Tofino along the exposed west coast of Vancouver Island. We were approaching Estevan Point, the last major hurdle before reaching Clayoquot Sound and home. Estevan Point is a broad peninsula which



juts miles into the open Pacific. As with every headland, the energy of the ocean’s currents, swell and wind magnify as they are forced around the obstruction. As the helicopter began searching the area around us, we grabbed our VHF radios and listened intently. Kayakers ‘Tom’, ‘Bob’ and ‘Nancy’ (names changed) were a three-person party travelling down the west coast of Vancouver Island. In the choppy seas, Tom had outpaced the other members of his party and proceeded to their planned destination. His friends, feeling uncomfortable in the sea conditions, diverted to a different beach to wait out the weather. When Tom unsuccessfully attempted to raise his friends on his VHF radio, he contacted the Coast Guard which initiated a search. Before Genevieve and I began our journey we established an informal paddling contract: a mutually agreed-upon set of rules which would help guide our expedition. Decisions would be made


by consensus based on weather reports and energy levels. While paddling we would never stray beyond easy verbal communication. Backup plans, including established VHF communication channels and check-in times, were outlined. In the remote offshore waters of Vancouver Island, we had to be each other’s lifeline to safety. The next evening we found ourselves sharing a beach with the now-reunited trio. It was obvious the group was in conflict. Bob and Nancy expressed some trepidation regarding the dangers of Estevan Point while Tom was eager to continue. Tom appeared the most experienced kayaker, but seemed impatient with the speed their party was travelling. Leaving the party to their discussion, and with our plan to transit Estevan Point the next morning, we took an early night. To beat the afternoon winds we planned to be paddling by first light, so at four in the morning we awoke and began

Photos by Liam McNeil

packing our tent by headlamp. Moments later, Tom appeared in our tent vestibule to ask if he could “tag along” as we rounded the peninsula. Hesitating, we reluctantly agreed, and Tom began packing his boat beside us. Genevieve and I had serious concerns regarding the developing situation. In effect, we had been asked to lead this individual, someone we knew almost nothing about, around Estevan Point, one of the most challenging bodies of water on Vancouver Island. Not only were we being asked to aid in the abandonment of Tom’s friends, but as his ‘guide’ we would be responsible for his safety and well-being. Pulling Tom aside, I asked if he clearly understood that he was splitting his group, and our reluctance to assist this. With his insistence that he would still leave regardless, we grudgingly established some clear ground rules as to our conduct together, including staying together and communication. The two-metre seas, topped by the occasional whitecap, made for exhilarating paddling, but our group made good progress along the peninsula. Tom, however, slowly drifted away from us. By the time we had reached the tip of Estevan Point, Tom was a half mile farther out to sea. In distinct contrast to our location closer to shore, Tom was paddling in steep

Estevan Point.

rough seas with the swell breaking and spilling down the front of each wave. After a number of attempts to raise Tom on the VHF, the radio finally crackled to life. Tom indicated he was heading farther from shore to try and avoid the rough seas. In no uncertain terms, I responded that he should get his kayak back in closer to us. Together once more, in the lee of Estevan Point, we paddled on in strained silence. Once into the relatively sheltered waters of Hesquiat Harbour, Tom thanked us and took his leave. We later learned that his companions never left their beach, and a week later were evacuated by water taxi. Several lessons were reinforced during this experience, none more important than understanding and trusting your paddling partners. When working as a commercial guide, the leader should set clear guidelines and expectations for group behaviour, and the same needs to be applied when paddling as independent recreational paddlers. How the group will make decisions, whether

by a single leader or consensus, should be understood prior to every outing. One of the contributing factors in almost every kayaking incident involves the group becoming separated. It is a common problem for strong paddlers to outdistance novice members of a group, even though these same individuals are most likely to require assistance. Once separated and without the ability to communicate, receiving assistance from your group becomes impossible. The value of communication and group management skills are often overlooked, with our focus placed upon fancy paddle strokes and expensive equipment. Establishing a paddling contract between group members can help mitigate conflicts before they begin. If you are paddling as a group, stay as a group. Liam McNeil is a Level 3 Guide with Class 4 Waters Endorsement, and Executive Director of SKGABC. When not paddling, he can be found enjoying the rain in Tofino.

Coast&Kayak’s BC paddling resources

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Days of the



s a young boy my father frequently took me to fish tip to tail. They bite, they ram, they push and are like a gang of the waters of the local Channel Islands that lay 30 to 40 thugs when they gather in numbers. They make me think of bar kilometres off the southern California coast. The boat brawlers. At some point during the last two decades they decided usually left the local harbour the ocean was just not big enough about midnight and reached the for both themselves and the islands at first light. During the pilots, so it is not hard to see why crossing most of the fishermen the shy and friendly whales did slept in their bunks but I was not stand a chance against them. young and excitable and spent Risso’s are not that common, the entire trip on the bow of but they do stand out when you the boat, alone, indulging in a see them. On two occasions I feeling of freedom that is hard watched the water being churned to describe. from a distance and saw the thin There is one standout dorsals cutting back and forth memory of those trips: the but could not fathom what was pilot whales. At that time the happening until I got closer and Santa Monica Bay was full of realized it was Risso’s dolphines pilot whales, a rare breed of mixing it up among themselves. marine mammals that happened So far I have only encountered A Pacific white-sided dolphin. to love boats. They stayed just them while in small boats off the ahead of us in front of our bow coast and I have never heard of wake like our own personal guides, keeping a steady pace while them attacking or even being openly aggressive towards a paddler, occasionally looking back to make sure we were still with them. but if I ever do run into them in a kayak I will beat a hasty retreat. They were usually there for the entire crossing, leaving during the Fortunately, the Pacific white-sided dolphin, which is only day to hunt but somehow finding us for the return trip home. slightly less rare, does not share the pugnacious nature of the They were a very special part of my young life on the water, so I Risso’s, but they are still not the friendliest. I think they are the took it hard when they disappeared. But they did not just leave; most beautifully colored of all the dolphins with a black back they were driven away. that shades off to subtle blues before turning mostly white on Pilot whales are among the most docile of whales, feeding the underside. Their head is shaped like a bullet to cut effortlessly mostly on the squid that has always been abundant along the through the water. They always seem to be in a hurry on their California coast. Unfortunately, Risso’s dolphin feed almost way to someplace else. Usually a paddler will know they are exclusively on squid as well, and they are one of the meanest and approaching by the enormous rooster tail of water they send up, most aggressive species in the ocean. akin to the wake of a torpedo coming at you, due to the very high They are named for the 19th century naturalist Antoine Risso, rate of tail propulsion. and while they are a true dolphin they don’t resemble any of their They are the fastest dolphin, often jumping and turning cousins. They have a snub face that looks as if they rammed a complete somersaults or landing on their sides or upside down. boat at high speed and a dorsal that varies from a short roundedSometimes entire pods perform at the same time. They are very looking hump to a menacing scythe cutting through the water. inquisitive and have been known to approach boats, but this has Their pectoral fins and tips never happened to me. I have of their flukes are pointed, seen them coming from a great unlike their cousins, which have distance, knowing it was either rounded tips. Unlike all dolphin white-siders or the beginning of species, whose color variations a water spout, only to have them can be vast, they are mostly dull zip past me in the blink of an eye. gray to pure white. But what sets What I have seen, though, is that them apart more than anything as they pass they have always come is the fact that they love to fight, out of the water high enough to even amongst themselves. I have look at me, showing an innate yet to see a Risso’s dolphin that curiosity. The battle-scarred back of a Risso’s dolphin. is not covered with scars from  „ 18



by James Dorsey

Five common dolphins swim together to create a pattern of waves and movement. SPRING 2013



Wildlife Fortunately, the bottlenose and common dolphin more than make up for the lack of inquisitiveness and friendliness of their more excitable cousins. The bottlenose are the largest, with a flatter rostrum and little colour variation, being mostly gray that runs to blue depending on how the light hits them. The commons are identifiable by the hour-glass shape on their sides that runs the spectrum from pale to bright yellow on the front half that meets in the center and turns anywhere from white to pale gray. Both of these creatures can be found individually or in megapods that can easily number in the thousands. Unfortunately, the bottlenose dolphin is the one you will see performing in most aquatic theme parks. They are highly intelligent, easily trainable and to their detriment, highly socialized in relationships with humans. So to no surprise it was the bottlenose that the navy trained to plant explosives on the underside of ships. To me, the common dolphin is God’s happiest creature, and I would argue they are also among the most intelligent on the planet. Their insatiable curiosity draws them to anything new entering their domain, especially boats, and I always love their reaction when they pop up next to my kayak and realize there is a person near their level. My wife and I were paddling the Sea of Cortez and had hauled out on a sandy beach then climbed up to a rocky point to enjoy the view over a bottle of water. The sun was a swirling ball and the water flat as a bedsheet, shimmering under the morning blaze. Suddenly a long black line appeared on the horizon too far away to identify but which grew quickly like an approaching army of locusts.

Common dolphin.

Within a couple of minutes, thousands of common dolphin came motoring by, jumping in a syncopated rhythm that brought the ocean to life – a churning, roiling mass of energetic animals. Had they stood in place, there were so many we could have walked for a mile or more across their backs, but they moved with purpose, as a solid entity intent on being someplace else. The closest to us were no more than six metres offshore in water so clear we could see the bottom six metres below as their passing shadows played a rhythmic strobe effect on the ocean floor. Overhead nearly as many western gulls flew in formation, a feathered honour guard hoping to cash in on the leftovers this enormous army of cetaceans must surely leave behind. I had seen a megapod of dolphins before, but nothing like this. Most were silent, the only sound being them breaking TM


Why Dig When You Can Glide? 20



the surface and re-entering the water, but occasionally we could pick up their chirps, clicks, and squeals, especially from the more curious who had noticed us and passed close by to have a look at these intruding voyeurs. We sat in stunned silence for the better part of an hour, and only then did the sheer numbers begin to thin out. There were quite a few stragglers, some possibly sick or injured, but trying their best to keep up nevertheless. At this time I noticed what appeared to be a couple of larger dolphins circulating among the laggers, cutting in and out of the formation at great speed, and at the risk of imposing my thoughts on animals, I reasoned they were urging them on, telling them not to fall behind, to maintain ranks like a good soldier. Once the mass exodus began to thin out we put in and headed south as the final stragglers continued their journey north. We were immediately surrounded by curious dolphins. They seemed to be going out of their way to come closer to shore just to see us, and I have to admit we were an oddity as our area had few outside visitors. Dolphins that were almost a mile out to sea suddenly turned shoreward and we found ourselves surrounded by close to fifty of them, very vocal, chittering and clicking at what to me seemed warp speed, sticking their heads up out of the water as we paddled by. Our presence on the water had totally broken their concentration about staying with their pod. Now we were objects of curiosity and some of them began circling our boat, gently nudging us here and there. This was a fascinating up-close peek into the mind of dolphins. They had gone from part of a massive migrating pod

to a handful of individual stragglers put off their mission by a kayak on the water. Would they be able to catch up? Or did it simply not matter? Dolphins constantly interact with humans. There are countless reports of them coming to the aid of downed pilots or shipwrecked boaters, and I am even in possession of a video that shows a pod forming a line to confront a large shark, and coordinating an emission of their echolocation signals that hit the shark as if it ran into a brick wall. Yet we have exploited their intelligence and learning abilities by imprisoning them in small pools. My long personal interaction with them has lead me to pose the theory that perhaps in the universe they inhabit, maybe they are creatures of great accomplishment, with some of their number being creatures which have truly made a difference for their species, just as we humans have outstanding individuals. Perhaps in their undersea world, dolphins have made great discoveries or have produced leaders which have effected massive change for the good of the whole. If this is possible for humans, it is not such a stretch to suppose it the same for higher level cetaceans, only in a different way. We will never truly enter their world as long as we keep them in captivity. That is only possible by approaching them on a more equal level in their own environment, and the most accessible way of doing that is by kayak. Coast&Kayak Magazine is thrilled to be able to serialize James Dorsey’s book Dancing With Dinosaurs, a naturalist’s 15-year odyssey of kayaking among whales.

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the Peel River Watershed

Travel information: Plenty of caribou. The Peel River Watershed is part of the winter range for the 100,000 strong Porcupine Caribou Herd. magnificence. To compliment the often gin-clear water, natural features such as deep canyons, sprawling forested plateaus, extensive system of wetlands, rolling hills and towering mountains provide a paddling playground second to none. Where the day’s paddling ends, hiking and wildlife viewing begins. Each stop along the river features ecological or cultural heritage treasures to explore. Given these rivers are home to the Yukon’s largest population of woodland caribou, healthy moose, sheep, grizzly and black bear populations, significant nesting and staging areas for



waterfowl and birds of prey, there are plenty of welcomed surprises around every bend. While the large mammals tend to steal the show, it’s the grasses, sedges, wildflowers and edible berries that provide a natural backdrop.

Travel information: Not just a pretty place. The Peel River watershed has a rich cultural heritage and is located within the traditional territories of four First Nations. While these are all world-class, signature, ‘bucket-list’ rivers, each is different in pace, duration, class, and overall experience. Rivers can feature water from Class I to Class V and are accessed from different Yukon communities by floatplane and occasionally, helicopters and roads. Yukon Wild adventure experts play matchmaker and offer group or customized multi-day adventures by canoe, kayak and raft into these rivers. Maximizing your experience in this unspoiled and pristine wilderness comes with a great responsibility.

Travel information: Hours to explore. The midnight sun provides bursts of energy and makes a photographer’s ‘magic hour’ last for hours.

Licensed and registered Yukon Wild operators will ensure that the only mark left from this experience is what remains on your camera and in your soul. SPRING 2013

Photo: Nahanni River Adventures

We all paddle for different reasons. Some sit back, relax and take time to explore every nook and cranny in a river system. Others like to hit it hard and push through as much churning white-water as possible. Then there are those focused on the connection to a natural landscape and cultural heritage along the way. The immense Peel River Watershed, featuring the navigable Wind, Snake, Bonnet Plume, Peel, Blackstone, Hart and Ogilvie rivers, provide for any of these options. In the heart of Canada’s Yukon, this immense watershed is the size of Scotland and one of the last intact mountain boreal ecosystems in the world. The watershed dwarfs that of other national treasures like Yellowstone and Banff National Parks in size and untouched ecological

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Experts know the


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20 days from $6,550: The Bonnet Plume River is a must on anyone’s canoeing bucket list. Cutting along the Mackenzie Mountain Range and into the heart of Yukon’s wilderness, this paddle can be technically challenging where Class II is frequent with pockets of Class IV and V. Experienced guides will scout and access the best track for maximum safety and fun.

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Destinations: British Columbia 2013

BC’s ‘best places’  2013 edition Haida Gwaii

Kynoch Inlet SGang Gwaay Desolation Sound Provincial Park

Jepther Pt.

Freil Falls & Jervis Inlet

Robson Bight

Brooks Peninsula Yuquot


Broken Group Islands



Deer Group



This year’s presentation on British Columbia kayaking destinations turned out to be nowhere near the original plan. Nor was there any intention of naming any ‘bests.’ The concept of a best misses the point. Every location in BC has its special charm, features, rewards and attractions. So what are those charms? Well, in the process of listing them, an unintentional result began to emerge. It began to sound very much like categories for some kind of contest, with the shopping list of suggested locations appearing more and more like a ‘best of ’ selection. And so we present this accidental list of Coast&Kayak’s picks of the best of several largely random categories. So what about the best tidal rapids, best cliffs, best paddling marine pub crawls, best sunsets, best you name it? Please do name it! We’ll add suggestions to the candidate list for future consideration. Until then, this is our ‘best of 2013.’ Enjoy!

Destinations: British Columbia 2013

• Best wildlife • Best arches • Best day trips • • Best places to discover/rediscover • Best waterfalls • • Best historic locations •

The sun sets on a pleasant little beach on Texada Island overlooking the Sunshine Coast, aptly named on this particular day. Texada is a runner-up on our pick of best places to discover or rediscover. Texada remains oddly underutilized as a kayaking destination.




BC destinations 2013 A killer whale glides through the outskirts of Hardy Bay just offshore from Port Hardy with the Masterman Islands in the background.

Where to watch critters A

Sunset on a beautiful beach is inspiring. So is paddling alongside interesting cliffs and mountainous backdrops. But chances are the best memories of your kayaking holiday will be of a close encounter with a creature of the deep. In British Columbia those can be cute and cuddly (sea otters), ugly and odd (sea squirts) or big, fast and fascinating – with nothing fitting that description quite like whales. As for memories to treasure forever, few experiences can match watching a whale unexpectedly breach near your kayak. With that in mind, here are some prime locations to take in British Columbia’s marine mammal wildlife. 1. Robson Bight. The most popular kayak touring destination in British Columbia is Johnstone Strait, and there is one main feature that attracts the crowds: killer whales. The region is visited by about 30 pods each year, some members of the resident north island population and others part of the transient pods that converge here in the summer. The magnet is Robson Bight, the only ecological reserve created solely to protect killer whales. The bight is visited by orcas most heavily from June to October, the peak 26


period for salmon migration. Robson Bight is picked by the killer whales as the cetacean equivalent of a vacation hotspot; typical killer whale behaviour observed here tends to involve far less feeding and far more rest and play, particularly rubbing, the orca equivalent of a massage by gliding along a beach. Apparently Robson Bight’s pebbles are ideal for this. With the creation of the ecological reserve in 1982 came a policy of no water access to give the whales a break from pestering whale-watching boats and other marine traffic. That means you won’t get to visit them within the no-traffic zone, but even outside it is very difficult to swing a dead salmon without hitting a killer whale in peak season. They even have a route: when feeding, a pod will travel east along the shoreline to about one kilometre past the park boundary, then turn and head west to continue the hunt in the other direction. For this reason most visitors tend to congregate at the main camping locations near Telegraph Cove: Blinkhorn Peninsula, Hanson Island and Boat Bay, to name a few. However, odds of seeing a pod are good just about anywhere along north Vancouver Island, so you can avoid the congestion and still get a spectacular show. But a departure from Telegraph Cove SPRING 2013

does have its advantages, particularly as the infrastructure caters to kayakers with rentals, water taxis and accommodation, not to mention it is the base of operation for a variety of tour companies. 2. Jepther Point. Set on Goletas Channel north of Port Hardy on the northern tip of Vancouver Island, this point is strategic for overlooking a main thoroughfare for marine life. This means a good chance of seeing passing pods of killer whales plus also good odds for humpbacks, gray whales and other marine mammals such as sea otters and sea lions. Overall, the ecology is more varied here than just about anywhere else on the inner British Columbia coast. Getting here is part of the challenge. Goletas Channel is a moody stretch of water, with Jepther Point near the north end about 40 km from the launch in Port Hardy. So it’s no simple transit, and apt to be complicated by strong winds and current. The best approach is to make it part of a larger trip, which is easy to do as there’s so much to explore in this area, notably God’s Pocket Provincial Park. The park encompasses part of a grand little archipelago across the harbour from Port Hardy. Here’s a handy trip-planning suggestion: don’t hug the Vancouver Island shore

Best places to view wildlife

Camping at Jepther Point.

on your transit north to Jepther Point. Instead cross to Nigei Island. Doing so would appear to make the trip longer, but check a chart and you’ll see it’s the same distance in the end. The advantage is the Nigei Island shorefront is more scenic and has a selection of good beaches that the Vancouver Island side lacks. Jepther Point is within Cape Scott Provincial Park and is not a designated camping area. It should also be considered ecologically sensitive, as it is a whale rubbing beach (one of those rare locations where the pebbles are good for an orca

massage). So access is allowed – for now. That could change at any time, particularly as the BC Marine Trail Network Association included Jepther Point on its site wishlist, but it wasn’t included when the West Coast Vancouver Island North section of the network was created two years ago. No doubt when park officials look at whether camping is appropriate here, they’ll have numerous reasons to say no. In the meantime, minimizing your impact when visiting will help the claim that kayaking here is acceptable use. 3. Brooks Peninsula. Killer whales may not be as common as in Johnstone Strait, but the overall marine mammal population is probably higher here than anywhere else on the BC coast. Brooks Peninsula is set on the outside northwest of Vancouver Island, one of the most isolated regions of Vancouver Island, and so requires a concerted effort to reach. It is also one of the most dangerous places to kayak, prone to sudden changes in wind and weather,

and so requires care and planning as a fundamental part of the trip. To get here you’ll have to brave not only potentially rough water but rough logging roads. The star attraction is an unlikely creature: tufted puffins. While not as impressive as a pod of killer whales or a breaching humpback, these puffins certainly rank as the most colourful and delightful characters among the marine birds on the British Columbia coast. They are also limited to just a few nesting locations in BC. Solander Island off the tip of Brooks Peninsula is the second largest colony in BC; Triangle Island is the largest, but at 70 km off the northwest tip of Vancouver Island, visiting there is simply not an option, even if it was allowed (and as an ecological reserve, it is not). Brooks Peninsula can be reached from the north or south, with Kyuquot Sound to the south a key staging area. Plan at least a week but better two to three weeks to fully appreciate what this region has to offer.

Plan your trip: North Vancouver Island


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BC destinations 2013

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Best places to discover/rediscover This category might have been simply the ‘best places to discover.’ But it got complicated when one so-called discovered location, that is, one of the prime kayaking destinations in BC, received an overhaul. That means there will be a whole new way to experience this location, and a new reason to seek it out. So with that explanation of why we did what we did, we present a pair of choice locations to consider for a trip that you might otherwise have overlooked. 1. Desolation Sound Marine Provincial Park. The been-there, donethat crowd will be happy with this news: Desolation Sound Marine Provincial Park has been rejuvenated. The same features that made the park famous are still there, of course. For those not familiar with the area, those are the various islands, bays and waterways backed by spectacular mountains (with the nearby peaks of Bute Inlet such as Mount Queen Bess topping 3,200 metres).  „ Continued on page 34.

The new desolation

The view from the tent pad of a newly created campsite at Desolation Sound Marine Provincial Park.

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Plan your trip: Broken Group Islands/Barkley Sound

Responsible caving: watch for the birds!

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The Pacific Rim National Park website has this dire warning: “Boating near caves and cliffs impacts nesting seabirds and is hazardous. Stay well away from these features.” The main consideration is pelagic cormorants, a lover of crags known to nest in many cliffs in Barkley Sound. Such locations can usually be spotted by the white guano on the rocks, in the event the birds themselves aren’t visible. It is tougher to discern residents within caves with poor lighting, though, as nesting birds may go unseen until the damage is done and the birds are unduly disturbed. The two main Barkley Sound arches discussed on the next page have no visible nesting sites nearby, but be wary and if you do sight birds (or white streaks) on the rocks nearby keep your distance. Best practice is to stay away and view the arches from a reasonable distance. Be assured, they are spectacular even from outside.





Best arches

just Paddling Through? A great way to add an element of adventure to a kayaking getaway is to explore a cave. There are many to be found here in British Columbia, including a few spectacular paddle-through arches. Granted, many superb such features are also found down the coast of Washington, Oregon and California, but those tend to be more out into open water and so are more risky to reach if you’re just a meandering kayaker. Some BC arch locations, though, can be reached in relatively sheltered water, and so can be viewed with much less potential risk. Here is a hand-picked selection of the best arches in BC for those with a penchant for kayak spelunking. As with all things, responsible enjoyment is encouraged. Please read the travel advisory on the facing page, and take note that as well as the risk of disturbing birds there is a safety consideration – a poorly timed entrance could find you smack in the middle of two large converging waves. 1. Effingham Island. The south shoreline of the Broken Group Islands, a popular kayaking archipelago in Barkley

A calm day helps the trip through the arch at Effingham Island in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. Care should be taken to avoid disturbing birds if visiting; below, the arch off Tzartus Island in the Deer Group.

Sound off Vancouver Island’s west coast, is dotted with caves, the most famous being the paddle-through arch on the south shore of Effingham Island. On a good day the location is serene and with proper timing the risk of hitting converging waves is minimal, but still a factor. In other conditions it will be challenging if not impossible to enter, as waves will rush in from both directions and collide within the cave. Other nearby caves can be quite spectacular, and run the length of the southeast-facing islands from Gibraltor to Austin islands. 2. Tzartus Island. Located on the east side of Barkley Sound opposite from the Broken Group Islands, the Deer Group offers an alternative destination in the same region with a completely different feel and complexity. The visual highlights are numerous, including a good selection of sea caves. Most are located on the outer islands such as Edward King Island, but the most remarkable is the paddle-through arch off the north end of Robbers Passage on the southwest extent of Tzartus Island, the largest island in the group. The Deer Group can be enjoyed as SPRING 2013

an extension of a holiday in the Broken Group Islands or on its own as a trip out of Bamfield. The Tzartus Island arch can be reached as a day trip, as it is only 10 km from the Bamfield launch. 3. Thomas Island. This is a remote outer-coast island north of the Mission Group off Kyuquot Sound on the way to Brooks Peninsula (see page 27). The island is split by a large sea cave, but reefs and exposed water make it next to impossible to pass through. If you instead skirt the Vancouver Island shore on the way to the Bunsby Islands there is a remarkable set of sea caves and one L-shaped paddle-through cave opposite Thomas Island. This is a must-see on the way to the Bunsbys, a remote kayaking destination north of Kyuquot Sound. COAST&KAYAK Magazine


BC destinations 2013

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Best waterfalls

Watching the water fall 1. Freil Falls. This waterfall is located in Hotham Sound on the lower leg of Jervis Inlet. Also known as Harmony Falls, it drops about 444 metres from Freil Lake directly into the sound. Like many falls in British Columbia, the correct timing will help your visit. Freil

Inset photo courtesy Talaysay Tours.

For those suffering potamophobia, skip these pages. But for those who love a good waterfall, we’ve scoured the British Columbia coastline looking for the best, and we’re happy to share our findings. Waterfalls can be a pleasant distraction to chance upon as part of a wider journey, but in some cases the waterfall can be enough of a reason to make it the focus of a trip. So here’s our pick of tripworthy cascades.

Falls is fed largely by rainfall, and far less by melting snow, and so will fizzle out later in the summer season. Freil Falls is one of the ten tallest waterfalls in British Columbia, and the third tallest falling directly into the coast. Above all it is the simplest to reach. Unlike the other tallest coastal waterfalls, it can be visited as part of a long day trip or an overnight trip. Possible access points are Saltery Bay (about 20 km one way) or Egmont (about 15 km one way). What makes a trip here particularly enticing is the adjacent scenery, with Hotham Sound one of the more scenic in British Columbia, thanks mainly to Mount Calder (1,469m) tucked just north of Freil Falls and Castor Peak (1,459m) at the head of the inlet deeper within the interior of British Columbia. The sound as a whole has one of the steeper shorelines to be found, with the adjacent topography often soaring to more than a kilometre. That’s a lot of scenery very close to Vancouver!   „

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BC destinations 2013 2. Upper Jervis Inlet. We featured Princess Louisa Inlet in the Winter 2012 issue, with Chatterbox Falls one of the main attractions (click here online to read). Not mentioned in that article were some of the details that make this waterfall so spectacular. The main Princess Louisa waterfall begins in the snowfields at 840 metres (almost twice the height of Freil Falls), with the cascades of Loquilts River reaching Princess Louisa Inlet via Chatterbox Falls through twin streams. One will usually dry during the summer but the other lasts year-round. This complex of cascades is called James Bruce Falls, and it is the tallest waterfall in North America and ninth tallest in the world. Not enough? Then continue on past Princess Louisa Inlet to the head of Jervis Inlet at Alfred Creek, which flows off Mount Alfred via a waterfall (Alfred Creek Falls, of course), in a cascade measured at 700 metres down a sheer rock wall. You won’t meet many people if you visit Alfred Creek. Most stop at Princess Louisa Inlet, thinking the scenery ends there. Of course, there’s always more if one takes the time and trouble to look. 3. Kynoch Creek. This will take some work to reach, as it is at a highly remote location along the Central BC coast, but this waterfall is certainly one of the most visually appealing from the waterfront, and just one of many within Fiordlands Provincial Park. The easiest way to get here will be via the remote village of

Above: Chatterbox Falls and where it all begins with the rock face that James Bruce Falls follows. Right: Kynoch Creek falls.

Klemtu by plane or boat, then paddling a couple of days. We told you it would be tough! Honourable mentions: We wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t mention Calvin Falls on the outer coast of Nootka Island (see the Summer 2012 issue of Coast&Kayak), and Dean Channel on the way to Bella Bella on the northern BC Coast (especially just after a good rain). And for the record, potamophobia is a fear of rushing water.

Areas to discover/re-discover „ From page 29 New this year is the restructuring of the Desolation Sound Marine Provincial Park’s camping, complete with new locations and facilities such as tent pads and outhouses. Better yet, these are where campsites should be located. This wasn’t always the case, and one of the reasons some of the most-used campsites in the sound were often outside the park boundary. Because the park’s rebuilding is so new, it isn’t even officially announced yet (as of press time, anyway), so the new locations aren’t yet public record. You can follow the drama as it unfolds at the Desolation 34


Sound Marine Provincial Park website ( parkpgs/desolation/). Until then, the best we can do is offer a sneak peek of the view of one of the new tent pads (on page 29). So think of this as a present you can’t unwrap just yet. We’ll follow up with more details in a future issue of Coast&Kayak. 2. Texada Island. Of all the large islands along BC’s south coast, Texada Island is rarely talked about by kayakers. Most who do visit this area off the Sunshine Coast tend to congregate at Jedediah Island, a beautiful little provincial


park set between Lasqueti and Texada islands. The entire group is a cluster remarkably isolated from the other coastal island groups in the midst of Georgia Strait (see pages 24-25 for a picture). Texada Island is 50 km from end to end – a lengthy circumnavigation, so plan four to five days. If you are one of the few to attempt the paddle, expect mostly uninhabited coastline with everything from a large industrial mining complex to convoluted mountain bluffs and sprawling cobble beaches. The one thing you probably won’t see is other kayakers. It’s just not paddled very often.

Best day trips


Sweet Destination Approaching Chocolate Beach in Ganges Harbour.

Chocolate Beach is the icing on the cake for a trip through Saltspring Island

Sometimes it’s not just the destination, it’s where you start from as well. Most ‘dream’ kayaking trips will begin from remote and distant launch locations, but for the majority of paddlers the reality is going to be a day trip from an easy-toreach spot, usually from within a town or city for the sake of convenience. If so, it only makes sense that your starting point should have as much to offer as the attractions on the water. In shortlisting locations for ideal day trips, it became clear there were so many, and of such high quality, that we decided to make this a regular feature in the

magazine. So watch for more perfect day trip suggestions in future issues. Chocolate Beach from Ganges Harbour, Saltspring Island. Some trips are just about kayaking. But if you’re going to head to Saltspring Island, you had better make it about the island as well. Otherwise you’ll be missing out on one of the most colourful coastal communities in BC. Saltspring is a mix of rugged coast, sprawling parks and mountainous trails, but also home to an offbeat artistic community, represented best in the Saturday market at Ganges Harbour. Bring lots of spare cash and expect to spend a

good hour or two browsing interesting handcrafted and homemade items, from soaps and jewelry to fragrant baking. This is a highly recommended aspect of any Saltspring trip. And if not possible to be here on a Saturday, Ganges’ small but thriving selection of interesting shops and eateries can be visited anytime. Ganges Harbour is also a busy boating location with several marinas and docks. For kayaking the advantage is a string of islands through the harbour’s center. Shallow shoals help keep most of the motorized boat traffic towards deeper „ water. 

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BC destinations 2013

Chocolate Beach.

The islands themselves are private property, but most have just a single home or two so the charm remains largely untouched. The star attraction is Third Sister Island, with its superb beach visible from a distance as you approach. While a private island, it is unoccupied and the owner not only tolerates visitors, but accommodates them, and so Chocolate Beach has gained a reputation as a great

Ganges Harbour.

day-trip getaway for Saltspring Island. The beach is actually white sand, grit and crushed shell, so there is no quick explanation for the chocolate (at least no official one). A trail crosses over the island to a lookout across Captain Passage. Partway along the trail is a Tolkienesque outhouse built for visitors that would be perfectly at home alongside any hobbit hole. This is worth a look even if you don’t

A hobbit outhouse?

have to go. That can’t be said for many outhouses! The distance to Chocolate Beach is an easy 4 km from the harbour launch. To extend the day, hug the Saltspring shore and head to Yeo Point, another pleasant beach within Ruckle Provincial Park, a 22km round trip. A backup launch is a beach at the end of Churchill Road off Upper Ganges Road just north of Ganges.

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Best day trips

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BC destinations 2013

Paddling into

History Friendly Harbour.

Not many people will set out on a kayaking trip in British Columbia with an agenda intent entirely on visiting history, one simple reason being so little remains of the past. While Europe has its castles and even other parts of the Americas have their ruins often dating back thousands of years, most of British Columbia’s aboriginal culture has vanished back into the forests from where it originated. This was partly by design, as descendants have been reluctant to rebuild or repair what remains based on the belief that what came from the forest should be allowed to return. So the number of places that qualify as historic destinations

are relatively few. Fortunately, there are a couple of standouts worth noting. 1. Yuquot and Friendly Cove, Nootka Sound. It is hard to believe now, but Friendly Cove was once the centre for North American trade on the Pacific coast. It was also a vibrant village site, with thousands of residents who lived in dozens of long houses facing the cove’s shore. This was the home to Maquinna, the influential native leader whose name resounds through historic writings of this early period of European contact. Part savvy leader, he kept a hold on commerce in Friendly Bay by restricting

direct trade to the Mowachaht who acted as brokers for other nearby tribes. The result was bartering at higher prices than the Europeans had otherwise encountered. Part savage, Maquinna was responsible for the slaughter of the crew of the trading vessel the Boston, and the enslavement of two of the crew, one of whom lived to write an account that provides one of the best glimpses of the Nuu-chah-nulth culture before European influence. Friendly Cove was the site of the only Spanish fort built on North American soil, and the single act of Spanish military aggression – to seize British ships – almost resulting in a war between the two nations.

The historic church at Yuquot, some of the Mowachaht carvings found inside and a stained glass window donated by the Spanish government. 38



To put it right, Capt. George SGang Gwaay. Vancouver and Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra met here to resolve the so-called Nootka Controversy. Maquinna served a diplomatic role as host. Europeans, however, eventually stole away many of the best Mowachaht treasures, including the Whalers’ Shrine, an artifact now sadly and unsuitably located at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The and effort of paddling to get here (see the original island location is now a national advertisement this page). historic site. 2. SGang Gwaay, Haida Gwaii. Though there is little to see remaining This UNESCO world heritage site is from those days, there are enough high on the list of historic locations in significant reminders to engage the British Columbia as a glimpse back in imagination during a visit. A cairn time to see Haida culture in its natural commemorates the location of the Spanish fort and a historic church contains setting. About 300 people lived here in a thriving community until the late 1880s. stained glass windows donated by the The remains of 10 houses and 32 carved Spanish government to commemorate the mortuary and memorial poles provide a peace talks held here. A nearby place to unique window into the Haida past. visit is Resolution Cove on Bligh Island, The Haida name means Wailing Island, where Capt. James Cook anchored to trade based on a sound created at certain tides with the natives and undertake repairs on when air is pushed through a hole in a the namesake Resolution. rock on the island. The village was also There is also a historic native cemetery and a fallen totem near the shoreline, all to known as Nan Sdins. Getting here is part of the adventure, be found in one of the most spectacular as the old village location is on what was coastal settings in British Columbia (for known as Anthony Island far in the south more photos and information about this end of Gwaii Haanas National Park. area of Nootka Island, see the Summer Guided tours, motherships and water 2012 article In the footsteps of Maquinna). taxis can reduce the risk in kayaking here New this year is kayak rentals and the unassisted. wet launch possible from the MV Uchuck For more, see the Spring 2012 A passion out of Gold River, which allows kayaking for SGang Gwaay. trips to start from Yuquot, saving the time

Rebecca Cumming photo

Best historic sites

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New Gear/Surf skis

by Bob Putnam Bob Putnam, left, gives Coast&Kayak Skillset columnist Alex Matthews pointers on how to best re-enter a surf ski on an outing to Race Rocks. Alex has a video of his surf ski experiences online at

Confessions of a I failed roller

have always enjoyed engineless activities that allowed me to travel faster than my own two legs can carry me. I prefer cycling over running, crosscountry skiing over snowshoeing, and kayaking over... uhh... swimming. There’s nothing like gliding over crystal-clear shallows and watching the underwater garden pass beneath the kayak. Over time I found myself gravitating to kayaks that gave me more glide for less effort, such as Necky’s Arluck II and Looksha II and the Seaward Quest. Eventually I became aware of surf skis and was intrigued. Surf skis were developed in Australia and South Africa for surf lifesaving. These narrow craft allowed lifeguards to punch out through surf in order to assist swimmers and surfers. Vancouver was not exactly a hotbed of the surf scene at the time, and so surf skis were hard to come by. One of the first was the Speedster by Current Designs, a 20-foot by 18-inch speed machine. Many of the surf skis that were available then had fixed footwells, so the boat only fit one height correctly. The Speedster had an adjustable footboard,

and how surf skis evolved into an exhilarating alternative to regular kayaking - without having to master a roll a feature that was revolutionary at the time. It was a collaborative effort between Current Designs and Olympic gold medalist Greg Barton. The only problem was that you had to be an Olympic level balancer, as this was the most unstable craft on the water. I remember being at a West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium


paddling back and forth along the shoreline trying to make more than five strokes before capsizing. I decided to sign up for the forward stroke clinic with Greg in the hopes he could enlighten me. “Well, it takes time. You just have to spend time in the boat,” he said. That's what I was trying to do, but the boat wouldn't let me! I spent the winter paddling a much more stable TooGood surf ski. It had the stability of a tippy sea kayak but you could easily keep it upright. In the spring when my brand new CD Speedster arrived, lo and behold, I was able to paddle it around the calm waters of Deep Cove without capsizing. I was far from the model of stability, but at least I was able to spend time in the boat. So paddling around on flat water in a tippy craft is okay. Challenging – yes, you can work on stroke technique and work on fitness. But thrilling? Not so much.  „ COAST&KAYAK Magazine


New Gear




It didn’t become thrilling until I took a trip to Victoria and went for a little paddle with Ocean River’s Brian Henry in Victoria Harbour. Unlike Vancouver they have waves there, generated by a big ocean, which in a surf ski you can catch and surf. We took a couple of Speedsters out through the incoming waves, and while being much more stable for me than earlier in the season, the waves, ferry traffic and landing float planes created an intimidating environment. The trouble lay in making a turn, putting oneself at risk to broadside waves. After that we would run with the waves and surf the following sea back into the harbour. I straightened out the ski, started paddling hard, caught a wave and abracadabra, I was flying. My speed had doubled and my low brace was skimming along the surface of the water while my bow was bouncing in and out of the water – all at a speed I had never achieved before in a kayak. After coming off the wave I realized the aching in my face was from the milewide grin. Brian had one too. We did a few more trips out and pretty soon our window of opportunity had expired, but I was hooked. Paddling downwind and running with the waves is what surf ski paddling is all about. Being confined to the inland sea away from the ocean swell I was having to get my surfing fix where I could: westerly windstorms, Ambleside tide rips, tugboats

Viviane Nishikiori photo.



BUY A GOOD PADDLE – YOU WILL HAVE IT FOR LIFE. Factory Direct Sales Only or 15-metre yachts cruising up Indian Arm. I often found myself staring at the stern wave of a BC Ferry thinking, “I could ride that.” For many years I watched people bang their heads against the Speedster brick wall, or the Tipster as it affectionately came to be known. People were intrigued by the speed and lightness of the craft but more often than not would give up on the seemingly impossible task of balancing. Then Greg Barton started Epic Kayaks and teamed up with Oscar Chalupsky. „




Surf skis



Surf skiers in race action at Deep Cove.

Viviane Nishikiori photo.

Oscar is arguably the world’s best surf ski paddler. Together they decided that if you weren’t stable you wouldn’t be able to go fast. Their mission was to create a surf ski that was more stable but still maintained excellent hull speed. Epic’s V10 was created and other companies caught on by creating more stable models. While that was an improvement, many sea kayakers still found the jump to surf skis a challenge. Manufacturers did eventually realize that to increase their target they had to make surf ski paddling achievable for more people. And so Epic Kayaks converted their popular sea kayaks into surf skis. The 18X sea kayak, which Freya Hoffmeister successfully paddled around Australia, is now the Epic V8 surf ski with a 22-inch beam. The V6 has 23-inch beam. That's barge-like by surf ski standards! We are fortunate to have a British Columbia surf ski designer in Think Kayaks, with a new addition to the list of stable surf skis aptly named The Eze. The other beauty of these open cockpit kayaks is that if you do happen to capsize, with practice you can easily remount. If you are like me and like to paddle rough water and have a terrible roll, but have a good surf ski remount

(see Skillset, the facing page), it means you can push your rough water paddling to a higher level. The consequence of blowing your sea kayak roll in rough water can be serious. There are still hazards associated with surf ski paddling (as in any other paddling), but these can be greatly reduced with appropriate experience, training, the right gear and good decision-making. Many sea kayak skills are fully transferable


to surf ski paddling, such as strokes and balance, so you don't have to start from scratch. The result is a way to re-invigorate paddling for many people. Surf skis are light, easy to put on the roof of the car, and now they are stable, easy to paddle and tons of fun in a variety of conditions. It just took a while to get to here! Bob Putnam is owner of Deep Cove Kayaks in North Vancouver.


by Alex Matthews

Remounting a surf ski

Planning is a key part of a surf ski wet re-entry


s a longtime sea kayaker but novice surf ski paddler, one of the very first skills I wanted to learn was remounting my ski after a capsize. The use of a leash that tethers the boat to the paddler’s leg or PFD is highly recommended, as a surf ski’s light weight and buoyancy makes it likely to get caught and carried out of reach by wind. Before starting a remount, take the time to note the leash’s position and make adjustments as needed in order to prevent it from becoming wrapped around the ski or otherwise entangled when you slide back aboard your boat. 1. To keep the leash clear, it’s often easiest to remount from the same side as your fall. But in wind you will want to remount from the upwind side of the boat so that the ski isn’t running you over as it is pushed downwind. So it may be desirable to remount from the most suitable side of the kayak rather than your favoured side. Therefore it’s important to be versed at remounting from both sides. If remounting from the port (left) side: 2. Gripping your paddle with your


After a capsize, assess conditions to ascertain the best side to remount and ensure that your leash isn’t going to become tangled.

right hand (keeping it in its normal ‘active paddling’ placement), position your paddle across the seat from you so that it is parallel with the far side (starboard) of the ski. Get your right elbow into the deepest part of the bucket seat. This will put you

slightly forward of the seat, and line you up nicely for the remount and your twist back into the seat. Grip the far side of the cockpit with your right hand (with the paddle also held in position), and grip the near side with your left hand.  „



Get your stern-side elbow into the deepest part of the seat bucket. Grip your paddle and the far side of the ski, while your bow-side hand grips the side closest to you.

Aided by a powerful kick, slide up and across the ski while keeping your head and body low.




Still keeping you head low, rotate your body to drop your but into the seat.

With your feet still in the water, get a grip on your paddle with both hands.

Maintaining an active paddle for stability, bring your feet into the ski.




Skillset 3. Pull yourself up and over the ski aided by powerful leg kicks.  Tilt the ski towards you slightly as you do this so that it is at an optimal angle to allow you to slide up and over the side of the ski. To improve stability, keep your head and body really low throughout these maneuvers so that your centre of gravity remains low. Take a moment to fully stabilize yourself once atop the ski. 4. Still keeping your head and body

weight low, rotate your hips to drop your butt into the bucket seat. 5. Get a grip on your paddle with both hands and use it to help maintain stability while your feet remain in the water. Keeping an active paddle in the water, bring your feet into the boat and slip them under the foot straps. Because surf skis are self-bailing, there is no need to empty the boat of water – therefore no pumping or flipping and lifting of the kayak is

required. There’s no fumbling with a spray-deck either. Remounting a surf ski from the water after a capsize is really fast when everything goes to plan. As with any skill, practice makes perfect, so invest the time to get proficient with this self-rescue. Alex Matthew is Coast&Kayak Magazine’s skills guru and author of Sea Kayaking: Rough Waters (Fox Chapel Publishing).

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Keeping track on the water

New Gear

If you’re a kayaking professional, guide or in the process of being certified, a log is a requirement. Here are a few options to make the arduous task of record-keeping simpler.

u Kayaklog

u Paddle Heads

Pacific Canadian Waters Kayaking Journal R Record your West

Coast Adventures

R Full of important contacts and information, Hospitals, Coast Guard, Weather and much more.

Available at most fine kayak shops in BC and on line at It had to happen – an app serving as an electronic logbook. It’s a Danish product, and recognized by the DGI (Danish Gymnastics and Sports Associations) and the Danish Canoe and Kayak Federation, though developed in English. The app automatically records relevant data such as wind speed, air temperature, chill factor plus the length and route of your kayak trip. During your kayak trip you will be able to see your route on a map, together with your maximum speed and time. You can take pictures with Kayaklog and save these automatically alongside the kayak trip’s information. Naturally there’s a quick-share system for uploading to Facebook and Twitter.  u

For those who aren’t into apps or don’t have a smart phone, pen and paper still work just fine. Not only that, this trip journal won’t run out of batteries or fizzle and self-destruct when wet. Waterproof paper means it’s about as bombproof as a device can get. The trick is to not lose the pencil. This Canadian product has been put together by Paddle Heads Kayaking out of Alberta and is designed for Canada’s West Coast. So as well as the full selection of criteria for trip records (wind, wave, weather and much more) it includes handy references such as emergency contact information and even water taxi services. See the ad this page for more information.  u

Danuu Danuu PaddleSport Accessories

u SKANA Navigating using a sprayskirt as a table can be tricky, so chart plotters tend to be impractical while mountaineering compasses are usually too short to draw out an extended course or measure distance. To counter these shortfalls Howard Jeffs has produced the Sea Kayak Navigation Aid (SKANA). The base is made of a flexible clear plastic for use on a sprayskirt. The scales and dimensions of the instrument allow quick and accurate measurements. The scale markings are etched to resist scratches, and the flat profile allows storage under deck elastics.  u


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Seaward is proudly supporting Wave Vidmar as he paddles SOLO from California to Hawaii...Magazine 48 COAST&KAYAK the largest open ocean crossing in a traditional kayak - EVER!!

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w w w . s e SPRING a w2013 a r d k a y a k s . c o m

Spring 2013 Coast&Kayak Magazine  

Our pick of the best BC kayaking destinations for 2013, up close with grizzlies and dolphins, and the slow and steady evolution of surf skis...