FROM THE MAG | WATER WARRIORS | NORM HANN
PADDLERS MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN THE ECOSYSTEM
By Eugene Buchanan
Funny, but at birth, we’re not given much actual substance. Sure we receive a few treasures, like our parents and their DNA, if we’re lucky, and siblings and grandmas and grandpas. But mostly, we’re given things. Disposable possessions like baby pajamas and boxes of diapers and pacifiers and cute plastic objects that make cute sounds.
Often overlooked is one of the greatest gifts of all, given to each human the moment they enter the world: Earth. It’s rivers and oceans and lakes are something we all share, as is the health of those waterways.
None of us can solve all of Mother Earth’s problems in one sitting. But the following seven paddlers are thinking globally, and acting locally, to bring awareness to important water problems in their areas.
In 2013, Squamish, B.C., standup paddler Norm Hann was the first solo Canadian to finish the Molokai 2 Oahu Paddleboard World Championships. While that’s an impressive notch in the paddle, he’s more proud of using his board to protect the Great Bear Rainforest, a stretch of coast between Vancouver Island and southern Alaska.
In 2010, Hann embarked on his 400-km Standup4GreatBear Expedition, campaigning to keep oil tankers off the forest’s coastline by paddling the proposed tanker route from Kitimat to Bella Bella. Two years later, he paddled 350 kilometers along the coast of Haida Gwaii as part of the award-winning STAND film project.
“The Great Bear Rainforest is one of the most incredible marine and terrestrial ecosystems in the world,” he says. “We wanted to showcase some of the stories from it, including my paddle along Haida Gwaii, First Nations students building their own wooden paddleboards and even the connection Canadian pro surfer Raph Bruhwiler has to the coast. We wanted to inspire people to take action to protect it.”
Calling attention to it via SUP, he adds, was natural. “Standup paddling was a way to experience it intimately and really see what was at risk,” he says. “It also gave me the opportunity to paddle to First Nations communities and other cultural sites.”
Hann says he has paddled every section of the proposed oil tanker route except across the dangerous Hecate Strait, which he plans to cross on a one-day unsupported push this summer. Raising funds to help preserve the rainforest through sponsorship and selling apparel via normhann.com, he is also starting a project this year called Protect What You Love, joining STAND filmmaker Nicolas Teichrob speaking at local high schools and setting up video contests to inspire youth to help the cause. All monies raised support environmental initiatives protecting the region.
“People seemed to understand the significance of me standing on my paddleboard and relating that to standing up for the Great Bear Rainforest,” he says.