Tla-o-qui-aht, Ahousaht, and Hesquiaht territories have long been a world class destination for exploration and remote paddling. As sports change and things evolve there’s always going to be new and different way to explore the west coast with a paddle. For thousands of years dugout canoes were the main form of travel in these parts. In recent history we’ve seen an emergence in kayaking (originally developed by the Inuit, Yup’ik, and Aleut). And over the last 10 years we’ve seen a new paddle sport arrive to the west coast, sometimes drawing ridicule, challenging and humbling paddlers, and allowing people to continue to push new limits. This is the world of stand up paddle-boarding. One that draws its’ roots from many paddling histories around the world, and has now re-emerged as modern world’s fastest growing paddle sport.
So… people are doing more interesting things on a paddleboard. One on the to-do list for any paddling enthusiast is the self support multi-day trip. Camping on remote west coast beaches has long made this area popular on the tourist route, and relying on only your own paddling and navigation skills to explore the islands and inlets is an amazing way to learn and progress as a paddler. You’re putting yourself out there and making constant decisions about safety and where your adventure will lead.
Here’s some of the essentials for planning a SUP multi-day:
There is a big variety in terrain along the west coast with big calm inlets, to exposed crossings and headlands, to navigating strong tidal currents. Make sure you consider all factors when planning your route; wind, tide, current, swell, sea state, swell forecast, fog and know how these factors apply to your planned paddling area. On a calm day with small tides and no swell you can go almost anywhere along to coast, but even if it’s not stormy, the swell and wind conditions can drastically change paddling conditions. Or you could find yourself padding in the fog having to rely on compass navigation.
The great thing about paddle boarding is it’s okay if you fall in, but at the same time you’re often more susceptible to changing and dynamic paddling conditions. Standing catches more wind and creates a high center of gravity making it tricky to paddle in chop, currents, or swell. Understand the environment you’re heading out in and planning your route according to your ability is an important foundation to any successful trip.
I don’t mean the fanciest new paddle or clothing. I mean have gear you can rely on. Starting with safety gear; PFD, VHF radio, whistle, leash, compass, chart, first aid kit, and proper emersion gear. The cooler temperature of the water (even on hot summer days) always adds a level of challenge to paddling on the west coast. Next, make sure you have proper heavy duty dry bags, and that you can secure everything to your board. You’d be surprised at how much gear you can fit on a touring paddleboard, you can actually pack bulkier items then a sea kayak. I usually plan for 100L drybag space and a 10L dromedary bag. I also find putting all gear at the front of your board provides more maneuverability around your board to adapt to changing conditions, after all paddling in dynamic conditions is all about being able to move around on your board.
And remember, the one thing that has no place on a paddling trip…Cotton.
You’re on a paddling trip! Means you gotta eat well. Good food is good energy to stay warm, put on full days on the water, and enjoy your camping experience. Figure out a food system that works for you regarding a stove and kitchen set up. Food barrels and Tupperware bins are some things I like to use.
Then plan a menu around your paddling plan. Do you have time to cook a warm breakfast before you put on the water? (nothing like eggs and bacon on the morning). Or is it important that you get ahead of a potential approaching storm or beat the tide on day 2 morning, so a hearty portage may be a better option. Do you have a big crossing in the middle of the day, why not pack a sandwich at the same time that set up breakfast and give yourself flexibility to stay on the water a little longer if need be. Nothing like ending the day with a solid dinner. Food is important, do this one right. It will make your trip. And don’t forget to pack your water and snacks.
Plan ahead for what happens if things go wrong. What is your emergency communication device and how will you call for help? What are your emergency landing options? Have you highlighted possible evacuation or pick up points along the way? Where will you be? When? And if you’re not back by a certain date and time, who will call for help? Other important info to consider informing people about; what are you wearing (what they should look for) and important medical information….oh wow, that can be a lot to consider. Safety first.
There’s nothing worse than relying on fancy apps or the weather channel and then being constantly surprised about west coast weather. Work to build an understanding of weather patterns using the marine forecast, this could mean doing some homework and watching the weather. Learn to record and interpret the marine weather forecast using a VHF radio. Understanding how the weather may change will allow you to plan better alternative options and avoid surprises when you’re out there.
There you have it. Practice, be safe, get out there and have fun!
By Emre Bosut
© 2014 – SWELL Education | Tofino Paddle, Surf, and Outdoor Education (formerly T'ashii Paddle)