Today I want to talk to you about an incredible project I recently heard about: kayaking from British Columbia to Alaska via the Inside Passage.
As you may know, 1 year ago I had the chance to visit Guyana – wanna join on the next trip to this wonderful country? Contact me – together with 5 other crazy adventurers. One of them is Chris Whittaker, professional kayaker originally from England that now lives and works in Vancouver Island. Together with Nuka de Jocas he will embark on this trip and I personally can’t wait to follow their updates!
As soon as I heard about this story I decided to write about it. Here is the interview I did with Chris where you can find all the juicy details!
1 – Please introduce yourself so we know a little about you.
My name is Chris Whittaker and I am originally from Stewkley, a village in the English countryside. For the last 8 years I have dedicated my time to adventure sports and travel; teaching people to snowboard in the winter and leading multi-day sea kayaking trips in the summer. Between that, I pick up work as a freelance writer and photographer. I sum it all up by referring to myself as a ‘professional fun-haver and good time enthusiast’.
2 – How did you come up with this idea?
For years I had dreamt of carrying out a large scale expedition of my own, but never quite knew what or how. I guess I had just been waiting for someone to come along and ask me to join one. That’s not how it works.
It wasn’t until some friends of mine who I’d met in China decided to walk the Silk Road, all the way to Italy, that I realised it was down to me to make it a reality. I thought, “If they can do something as ridiculous as that, then I can find something epic as well!”
Last year I found myself guiding off of north east Vancouver Island, British Columbia. That’s when I started to get serious about creating this expedition. First I looked at heading south, but realised much of the Californian coast would be super sketchy and would push my trip too deep into the ‘might die’ category. Then I started to hear about the Inside Passage through something called ‘The Race to Alaska’, as well as meeting two girls who were on their own trip north. Within the local paddle scene here, kayaking to Alaska is not actually considered totally batshit crazy.
I decided that I’d too head north on the Inside Passage. Originally my plan was to go solo. But after some internal debate I felt that for a number of reasons: safety, motivation, route planning, sharing duties etc; having a partner would be advantageous.
Who is the most experienced expedition kayaker I know? My friend Nuka. He has previously paddled from Montreal, Canada; to Yucatan, Mexico. If you don’t know how far that is, look at a map of the world. It’s such a long distance you need a map that scale to see it all. He’s also moderately funny, a great cook and had already been thinking about his next expedition. It was an obvious choice and we work well together.
3 – What does For Fun’s Sake mean?
The name came about when trying to decide the purpose of the trip. Is it for charity? Is it for the awareness of something? We came to the conclusion that actually, we want to do it for no other purpose than going on an adventure and having fun. It’s For Fun’s Sake.
It is an important reminder to always bring everything back to that, whenever the going gets tough, when it’s wet and cold and miserable, it is important to always remember to keep it fun.
4 – Why are you the right people for this project?
We are the right people to take on this challenge for a number of reasons. As already mentioned, Nuka has completed large scale sea kayak expeditions himself, and I have been working professionally within the outdoor industry for 8 years across Europe, the Far East and now North America. We have each developed a skill set that requires safety and risk management to be at the forefront of every decision we make and are no strangers to battling the elements.
In a media and promotional perspective, I have worked with adventure travel brands and tourism boards in marketing through written articles, video and photo content.
Between the two of us, we have covered all the bases that are necessary in making this mission a success.
5 – How long will it take to get ready for the trip?
We went live on our website and social media accounts in September 2019, 8 months before departure. This gives us plenty of time to get our message out there to the masses, build a route plan and find a compass that points north!
6 – What kind of gear/support will you need exactly? Hopefully companies interested in sponsoring will read!
Every item we take will need to fit within our kayaks. Therefore, everything must have an important purpose in order to earn its place. We will need –
kayaking gear: boats, paddles, BA’s, dry suits…
safety gear: VHF radios, sat phone, EPIRB and/or SPOT device, flares…
camping gear: hammock, tent, tarps, stoves and cook set…
clothing: warm and dry.
camera gear: for photo and video updates, solar chargers…
We already have some of this equipment ourselves but not all of it. Safety equipment is expensive and is something that we will not cheap out on. We are hoping that by providing unique and interesting content to our audience of a wild and rugged adventure, we are able to gain sponsorship for certain aspects of our trip and fund the rest through donation.
7 – What is the purpose of the trip, other than “fun”? What is the message you want to convey?
We hope that we spark the viewers own thirst for adventure. That by seeing two guys that don’t take themselves too seriously conquer an expedition of this magnitude, that the viewers own personal goals no longer seem out of reach. We want to inspire our audience to get out and have themselves a wild adventure of their own.
Although our primary objective is a quest for adventure, we plan to tackle some more serious topics within our webisode series. Such as dedicated episodes on: threatened killer whales and what can be done to help them, marine mammals of the Pacific North West, climate and environmental concerns affecting all of our wild spaces, and areas of interest within the Inside Passage. By not linking ourselves to just one issue, it gives us the freedom to cover a range of topics that we feel need to be addressed. We shall be interviewing experts in each relevant field in order to help present the information in the best and most accurate way possible.
8 – Tell us more about the itinerary.
May 2020, depart from Campbell River, Vancouver Island.
Some time no sooner than August but hopefully before September, arrive in Skagway, Alaska.
We shall fill in the blanks over the next 8 months. Figuring out the itinerary shall consist of measuring the distance between various coastal communities that can be used a resupplies. This shall help us break down the trip into sections and also have areas to shelter incase of large storm fronts. We will also take into account any ‘must visit’ areas such as Robson Bight Ecological Reserve, Glacier Bay and Admiralty Island.
9 – What is the biggest danger in this expedition?
Fatigue coupled with severe weather. This can lead to a dangerous scenario of one of us being out of our boat in a place we really don’t want to be out of our boat.
And grizzly bears. That’s another reason why I feel much safer having Nuka with me on this trip. I’m way faster than he is.
10 – How can we follow your updates?
And our Youtube channel, which shall launch as soon as episode 1 is ready!