I have finally had some time to write some blog’s on my latest adventures. It has been an amazing month to say the least.
Bella Bella Boardbuilding Project. Photo: Norm Hann
My first trip up the coast was on Thursday May 31stto Bella Bella to see Chris Williamson’s wood working class. All seven students had completed their gorgeous wooden red cedar paddleboards and were now ready to learn how to paddleboard. This was the second class of students that have completed boards. I was up a year ago after the first class completed their boards and those students were highlighted in the Standup4greatbear Documentary. That first class has been an inspiration to many. This year there were seven new, excited students who were hand picked to be a part of this years project. I had flown up with talented photographer/filmmaker Nicolas Teichrob to meet Anthony Bonello who had been up documenting the board-building project for our new Standfilm project. This year the students and the Standfilm team were really stoked to be heading to Calvert Island and to the Hakai Beach Institute to do the official launch. Much thanks goes to Eric and Christina for hosting us at their incredible resort. Secretly I couldn’t stop thinking about the surf on the west side of the island, nor could professional surfer Raph Bruhwiler who had also flown up to meet us as part of the Standfilm team. Raph is a Quiksilver athlete and not only is he an outstanding surfer but he is an incredible ambassador for the sport and for our coastline.
We left on Friday June 1st but a nasty southeast wind forced us back to Bella Bella after taking a couple of green waves right over the boat. I was impressed with how quickly the sea state blew up. We managed to get a bigger boat later in the afternoon and before we knew it we were at Calvert Island, greeted by the welcoming staff at Hakai. After settling in we headed to West Beach, a stunning remote white sand beach 10 minutes from the resort and the protected inside waters. We were starting the Paddle Canada Intro course the following day so time was spent paddlesurfing, enjoying the sunset and embracing the incredible feeling that only a remote coastline can give you. I was in heaven.
Bella Bella Students with their new boards. Greg, Koran, Teesha, Courtney, Blake, Jen, Chris Williamson, Gene. Photo: Norm Hann
Saturday was the official launch of the new wooden sup’s the students had built. They were ready to learn how to use their new ocean crafts. I spent the morning teaching them the fundamentals and essential skills of this sport and quickly they picked up the basics. Coastal First Nation’s are waterman and it didn’t take long for the student’s confidence to grow and the smile’s to emerge. Soon they were off on their own exploring their own territory and enjoying their newfound independence. For the afternoon we headed back to West beach where Raph took them through a “Bruhwiler Surf Camp” lesson right on the beach. It’s important to teach standup paddleboarders how to surf these big boards without a paddle and to learn the proper surf etiquette. The sun was shining and the students took to the waves. Raph was awesome and soon enough the students were using their SUP’s to harness the remaining power left in the white water. Sort of like your first time standing up on a paddleboard, you will never forget your first wave you catch. I couldn’t keep the smile off my face watching the students surfing their own boards that they made by hand and with hours of hard work, built from the very trees that were lining the shoreline. I was like a proud father. The rest of the weekend was spent surfing, standup paddle boarding and exploring the outer coast. With the SUP being a great platform for diving, Raph headed to the outer islands to dive for Urchins with his Boardworks Surf Badfish Inflatable. A highlight for the weekend was when Raph brought some urchins back for the students to clean and eat. They had never tried urchin before and Raph showcased some of his intimate knowledge of living off the coast. Soon we were packing the boat up again for Bella Bella after an amazing weekend and before Hakai Beach was out of sight most of us were asleep. Congratulations to Courtney, Blake, Jennifer, Koran, Greg, Teesha, and Gene. Each of you are inspirations to myself and those who have followed this incredible story. All your hard work paid off. Nothing great ever comes without a commitment to your passion and lots of hard work. Where you take this is now up to you but I am sure your wooden sup’s will take you to places you never imagined, have fun and be safe.
Raph teaching Blake how to eat Red Urchin. Photo: Norm Hann
The Bella Bella PaddleBoard Project has to come to an end for now as this will be the last class to complete boards. Teacher, Chris and his partner Kara are now taking a year of to sail to Mexico. Congrats, life’s an adventure.
End of the Trip. Raph, Norm, Teesha and Nicolas. Photo: Anthony Bonello
Chris, I personally want to thank you. You’re an amazing teacher and accomplishing what you have over the last two years with these students has inspired and humbled me. Your commitment, work ethic, creativity and love for your students have provided them with a lifetime experience. I have continued to be contacted by other teachers, woodworkers and schools with hopes of replicating what you have created. I believe we are fortunate in our lives when we commit to our passions and are able to positively affect not only those in our immediate circle but when the experience has far reaching power that not only we even know. I feel you have done that. Teachers have this potential and you have not taken this responsibility lightly. So thanks Chris, and all the best for you and Kara on your sailing adventure. We are excited to showcase your story and the student’s path in Standfilm.