Inspiration from the Bella Bella Workshop

I flew in yesterday to Bella Bella for some meetings to determine the direction for the Virtual Rainforest Initiative project. It is cold and clear in Bella Bella right now with a nice coating of snow on the coastal mountains. I was pretty excited today to come in to Chris Williamson’s class to check out the wooden standup paddleboards they were making.

Aki hand planning his SUP

I completed my Standup4Greatbear expedition here in Heiltsuk territory last May and the students in Chris’s class were inspired to each build a standup paddleboard so they could explore their local waters and traditional territory. I told Chris as soon as i had the chance i was coming down to meet him and the class. Kudos to Chris who took on the project of teaching his students how to build a wooden SUP. This is a huge task which Chris figures the students have already put in 120 hours of work each on their own boards. It is tough enough building one board but Chris is not only building his own board but guiding 12 other students to each build their own board. Really amazing and inspiring leadership by Chris with his class. The boards are made up of a combination of red cedar, yellow cedar and spruce. The students are glassing in the fins and some are getting really close to finishing the boards. I had a chance this morning to meet the class and talk to each student about their boards.The students are also building their own wood paddles which complement the boards beautifully. The students are also designing their own logo’s to personalize each of their boards.

Ross, Ian and teacher Chris discussing board design

I will come back in May when the boards are done to do a Mountain Surf standup paddleboard clinic for the kids so they can get out in their own territory to explore, adventure and have fun safely. At one time large traditional cedar canoes were used here for transportation and food gathering. Now, the Heiltsuk youth will be traveling by SUP to carry on their tradition of paddling the oceans and rivers. With 13 new boards ready to be launched this spring Bella Bella has become the SUP paddling capital of the coast. I am so excited to get back here to paddle with Chris’s class.

Thanks a lot to Ian MacAllister who came over this morning with me to get video footage of the students and boards to be used for my upcoming documentary, Stand Up.

Ross’s beautiful red cedar, yellow cedar and spruce SUP


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