PADDLING THE MARGINS

20/04/2022


Kayaking Alaska to Seattle

In 2013 Jack Hampton, a plucky North Devon boy with no kayaking experience, turned up at Reed Chillcheater® with a dream to paddle across Scandinavia. With our support, he and a friend successfully completed their expedition: kayaking 2300km from Finland to Norway.

Jack is now back with his next adventure, Paddling the Margins, his most important kayaking challenge to date.Along with his team, Jack will be paddling from Alaska to Seattle and meeting with people from first nation groups, off-grid communities, and individuals from tourism and extractive industries along the coastline, to understand how the communities that live and work along the coast are adapting in the face of the global climate emergency.

Our founder, Chris, caught up with Jack for a paddle to learn more about the motivations behind his adventure, how he has prepared and what he’s most looking forward to.

So, what is the ‘Paddling the Margins’ project and how did it come about?

Paddling the Margins is a sustainability filmmaking project and kayaking expedition. My team and I will be kayaking the entire Canadian west coast from Ketchikan, Alaska to Seattle, Washington, unsupported in traditional skin-on-frame folding kayaks – an expedition first. We plan on filming the journey and conducting interviews with First Nation groups, off-grid communities, and individuals from tourism and extractive industries along the coastline and hope that the films we create can shed some light on how these communities, whose livelihoods are dependent on the coast, have learnt to coexist with their natural environment. In doing so, we aim to bring back learnings for how we can all live more sustainably in the face of the global climate emergency.

The project has been in the works for several years, but it was all borne from a love of kayaking I developed when I was 18 and set off on a mad kayaking journey paddling from Finland to Norway with a friend. We had very little experience, our planning was subpar and we owe a lot of our success to the support and guidance we received from Reed Chillcheater®, but it sparked in me a love of kayaking that I haven’t been able to shake! Since then, and with the continued guidance of Reed Chillcheater®’s founder, Chris, I have developed as a kayaker and I am keen to share my passion with others and ultimately use it to contribute to something I believe in.

There are a lot of outdoor adventure films out there, what is unique about the Paddling the Margins project?

What makes the project really unique is its narrative aspectand, while our films will document the adventure and the expedition first, we are attempting in paddling the entire coastline unsupported in traditional skin-on-frame boats, What makes Paddling the Margins stand out is the stories we hope to tell. We aim to capture the perspectives of people for whom the environment is so central to their lives that they have no choice but to adapt to the changing climate and who are already having to respond to these changes. We hope to bring back learnings for how we, in the UK, can coexist better with nature.

What Reed Chillcheater products are you planning on using?

Paddling due south for 3 months starting in April and finishing in August meant that equipment was going to be a big challenge for this project. We needed kit which would keep us safe and dry in temperate rainforests paddling in waters chilled by glacial run-off but also work in the San Juans in 30 degree heat. Our small volume boats, already full of filming gear, and our remote route meant that lots of kit changes were not an option.

What I love about Reed Chillcheater is their flexible approach, always up for a challenge and with their design and manufacturing team in-house able to think creatively to find new solutions. For us they have made two extremely breathable light weight drysuits which, when combined with their Transpire Fleece layering systems, allow us to adjust our temperature. Crucially, Reed Chillcheater have moved the entry zips to mid chest, a position which allows the suit to be opened up and the top half taken off and folded down underneath the spray-deck while in the boat. In this way we can stay cool on calm water before zipping into a fully functional drysuit ahead of tackling a difficult headland or crossing.

This project is also an expedition first and Reed  Chillcheater’s custom made equipment has been the perfect accompaniment to our folding skin-on-frame boats. The eccentricities of these boats have required innovation by Chillcheater to develop the perfect and safe combination of sea-socks and decks to keep the water out and the paddler comfortable. After rolling, wet exits and cowboy rescues the boats were still completely dry underneath the sea-socks, a testament to Reed Chillcheater’s iterative problem-solving and versatility.

Other equipment we have used has included Reed Chillcheater’s Pogies, Spare Paddle Holders, Greenland Paddles and Buoyancy aids.

You mention that you will be accompanied by other paddlers, could you tell us more about your team

While I will be the only one to paddle the entire 2000km of the coastline, I will be joined for various sections by some of my friends: James, Josh, Immie, Nick and Ben. While it may have been wiser to complete the journey with other experienced paddlers, I decided I would rather undertake this long journey with friends, who share the wider sustainability goals of the project, even if this meant teaching them to paddle first! Over the last 3 years, myself, the awesome paddlers from and my local club, Bideford Canoe Club, and Chris have put the team through their paces, taking them from never sitting in a boat before to being expedition-ready. I am really excited to be able to share such an amazing experience with my friends and create the life-long bonds that I know come from sharing adventures like this.

The project is a big undertaking, especially for novice paddlers like your team, how have you all prepared for the trip?

Yes, it’s certainly a big undertaking and I’ve been planning the trip for nearly 5 years now. In terms of preparation, we’ve all had to learn new skills. The team have not only learned to kayak and develop their forward paddling technique, which is so important for injury prevention and efficiency, but they’ve also learnt skills like bracing and using support strokes in the surf zone, self-rescues, and even to rolling. I have continued to develop my own paddling and have completed several advanced kayaking courses including the Tidal Sea Kayak Leader Award, Advanced Sea Kayak Award, and Open Water Navigation and Tidal Planning qualifications.

In addition to the physical preparation, we have all learnt a lot about filmmaking. None of us are filmmakers but thanks to the generosity of several experts in the field we have been educated in filming, sound, lighting, design and editing, which will set us in very good stead.

You’ve clearly prepared a lot for the trip, but what do you think is the biggest challenge you will face

I think the biggest challenge we will face is staying positive when things get hard. From my previous experience I know that nothing you do can prepare you for the days when it hasn’t stopped raining, it’s getting dark, your body is sore and you can’t find anywhere to camp – it can be quite overwhelming, so I think our biggest challenge will be managing our emotions and staying positive in these difficult circumstances. That being said, I have been there before and from completing ultra-marathons to mammoth paddles I know I can find the grit to push through.

And what about the thing you’re most looking forward to?

If I’m honest, right now the thing I am looking forward to the most is getting out there and getting started! As I mentioned, the project has been 5 years in the making, and now it’s so close I can’t wait to start. I’m really looking forward to that moment where we’re out in Canada, we’ve had a good day of weather, we’ve covered ground and had an interview with someone interesting whose perspective probably wouldn’t have been captured without the project – I can’t wait for the feeling that will come from that!

A key part of the project is the films you’ll be making, could you tell us more about these films and how you intend to share them with others?

Filmmaking is central to Paddling the Margins and we plan to produce two films about the project. The first will focus on sustainability and showcase the compelling stories of the people we meet as we travel along the coast, from which we can all take lessons on how we can continue tackling climate change on an individual level. The second will focus on the expedition itself to encourage other young people to turn their dream of adventure into a reality.

We plan on entering these films into the outdoor film festival circuit before posting them on YouTube for free access. Throughout the trip we will keep a regular blog on our website and will be posting frequent updates, clips and vlogs on our social media channels so please follow and check them out (see below)!

We look forward to keeping up with your progress. When do you start the trip?

We start very soon! We fly out to Alaska at the end of April and hope to be on the water for the 1st of May!

Find out more about Paddling the Margins here:

www.paddlingthemargins.com

Follow Paddling the Margins:

Instagram: @paddlingthemargins

YouTube: Paddling the Margins

Twitter: @PaddlingMargins

Jack Hampton - Paddling the Margins

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