When I set out to paddle around Bowen Island with one of Vancouver’s best paddlers today, I did not expect it to be as eventful as it turned out. With one month until the Yukon River Quest, I finally tested out the closest equivalent to what I’ll be paddling during the race for this longer paddle.
I blew my seat cushion up as thick as it goes, and as a result my centre of gravity was a lot higher than what I’m used to in a boat like that. As we reached the southwest side of the island a headwind picked up, and I definitely wasn’t feeling as stable as I do in my bathtub of a plastic boat in the resulting waves, especially with a national paddler right beside me.
Before we rounded the south end of the island we were distracted by a pod of Orcas, which got so close I actually put the camera down in fear that it was going to knock me off my boat. Wes quickly encouraged me to keep filming, but also had a hair-raising moment when one of the whales came right up next to him.
As we continued on the waves started getting bigger, and we made the call to turn around as I wasn’t 100% comfortable in conditions like that in a less stable boat. It was definitely a good call, because even in the calmer waters around the smaller Bowyer Island, my core was engaged for the entire 35km paddle, and I barely ate anything because my stomach was so tense.
Just when I thought I was going to make it back dry, my boat flipped over and I took a swim. In a way it was excellent practise, because the boat was so top heavy with gear that it didn’t want to stay upright after I flipped it back over. My water bladder fell out, but because it was clipped to me it dangled in the water by my feet, and after some untangling I managed to get back into the boat while Wes steadied it for me. Fortunately everything else, (except my hat that I just managed to save) remained where it was attached, and other than not being able to reattach my spray skirt and paddling with a boat full of water to the shore it ended relatively well.
Because I was already wet I tested out the surf ski Wes was paddling when we got back to shore, and was barely able to stay upright for two seconds on flat water. Shows what 20 years of training can achieve!
Though I should technically be tapering down my training soon, I’m actually paddling from Nanaimo to Vancouver with a group of stand up paddleboarders across the Straight of Georgia in two weeks as part of a charity event. I’m going to be in a much more stable boat, but depending on conditions the paddle can take between 10 – 12 hours. To read more about it and to make a donation please click here!! I’m trying to raise $2000 for PADS – Pacific Assistance Dogs Society, so any donation would be very much appreciated!