December 20, 2012

Andrew Woodford

Doug asked me to write a quick blurb about who I am and where I like to paddle. I said sure, I’ll get that back to you quickly. The proverbial “quickly” turned into an interesting run down the rabbit hole and the question, what path should I follow.. the red pill or the blue pill? I realized in my “quick “quest to answer Doug’s question that it re-opened a lovely melody of people, places and reasons for where and why I paddle.

I began to recount paddling my sea kayak down the Ottawa River and punching hard through the many large, surging holes and foam piles that presented themselves along the way. Short boaters looked at us strangely as we shot on by. I remember searching for the burial bones of Farley Mowets’ whale for a killing in the remote Recontre Ilands off the east coast of Burgeo Newfoundland. And as always, I enjoy remembering the surf and rescue courses off the many remote islands of the west coast of Vancouver Island. In these places often the whales and sea lions would join us in our travels. As I reminisced I came to the conclusion that there is not just one location that I can recommend but many. I also realized that it is not just the locations that I have paddled in that make them memorable, but the people that I have paddled them with. This too got me thinking.

I have been fortunate to have started 3 paddling based companies that are still running strong to this day. “Kindred Spirit White Water kayak company,” “Power to Be adventure therapy company”, and currently “ SKILS” sea kayak instruction and leadership systems ( All for different reasons and all with different intent.

It has never just been about the location alone, but the people and the intent of the journey. The locations have had the ability to amplify the experience in order to create the lasting memory. Hence, my dilemma.... which rabbit hole should I bring you through with me. I decided on only bring you down three to start....

Island 40 in the Nuchatlitz. A favorite of mine on Guide Courses when teaching with SKILS. If you are lucky enough, you may catch the occasional raft of over 60 sea otters float by while the mist rises off the morning rocks from the warmth of the rising sun. Meanwhile the sound of the open ocean laps on the rocks and shore line behind you while you face east to look into the mountains. Many of the new guides or instructors ask to stay longer.

Introducing the first youth oncology trip with Power to Be to the Broken Group Island over 15 years ago. Smiling to myself as I saw the eyes of the youth widen as they watched, listened and smelled over 1,000 sea lions foray on the beach and waters in between Wouwer and Batley islands in September. Answering their question... they prefer to eat fish.

Lastly introducing a close friend to an accessible stretch of coast with amazing rock gardens. It is better known to the land lovers as the start of the west coast trail from Port Renfrew moving North. To a select few, we know this stretch to be plush with sea caves, sea tunnels, rocks awash and spiritual energy, and when the conditions are right, an amazing day trip or surf journey.

I have been lucky to introduce many of these locations to others, which has allowed me to relive my first memories while forging new ones. If you want to learn about a few more unique spots across Canada or off of the coast of Vancouver Island, come on down to Mountain Equipment Coop in Victoria, where you will find me working as one of the many managers in the store. I am still lucky enough to introduce new paddlers to the equipment and gear that will eventually forge some amazing new paddling memories, and hopefully many, many new rabbit holes.


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