By Lee Richardson
When I moved to Vancouver Island, I planned to get a canoe because that was what I had when I was a kid and was comfortable with it. I remember paddling our family canoe everywhere. The two places I paddled the most were the pond that was across the road from my home and the river we used to camp at as a family. It was called the Salmon River and it was not very large, but it did have some current. I often paddled the canoe alone in the river, fishing for Northern Pike.
When I was young, I loved to fish and I often spent my free time in the canoe. My family went on many camping trips to secluded Canadian Lakes and I have many wonderful memories from these trips. I remember laying on rock outcrop, stargazing, and talking about philosophical things with my father’s best friend, jumping off cliffs, having a picnic in the middle of nowhere, and building forts in the woods with my sibling and friends.
I remember the smell of breakfast wafting into my tent, there is nothing like the smell of bacon being cooked over a fire. I remember not seeing people for days and how that felt. It made me realize how nice it was to disconnect and that was even before cell phones. As I grew older I did trips with my friends as well. I loved using the canoe as a way to escape into the wilderness.
Shortly after moving to Vancouver Island, I was driving to the Luxton Rodeo and saw two Pelican Esprit 100's on the side of the road for sale. I stopped and bought both of them and my boys and I used them for many years. We loved taking them to beaches and I enjoyed taking my friends out in them as well.
I realized I didn't have all I needed to take them out in the ocean and I also started to realize that these kayaks gave me a certain amount of freedom that I did not have with a canoe. They were easy to move around and transport and I could basically paddle anywhere. It gave me access to the water that was different than any other watercraft I had enjoyed in the past. I had also taken sailing lessons on top of the canoeing and we also had a small aluminum boat that we fished out of as a kid.
I started to see things I had never seen before, such as jellyfish, sea stars, the back part of Thetis Lake, Matheson Lake, and Langford Lake. This excited me, and I wanted to share it. The connection I was experiencing with the environment was important to me and I felt that all children should get this opportunity, so I decided to take a course and begin to offer kayaking as part of a summer camp program I was running called EcoQuest.
Our EcoQuest Adventures programs were purely Science based at the time and needed some more adventure added to them. Kayaking was a great way to access the marine environment and create connection between the children in the programs and marine ecology.
In order to add kayaking to a program, I had to take a day guide course which I ended up completing at Ocean River Sports. Jordie Allen Newman and Gary Doran were my instructors and I took the course with Michael Gilbert, a past President of Paddle Canada. That course was an eye opener and right away inspired me to buy a Sea Kayak and gear, and begin my paddle journey.
Since that course, I have taken many Kayak Courses and have Paddle Canada (PC) Level 4 Skills, PC Level 3 Instructor and Basic Instructor Trainer. I have found a love for surfing and playing in moving water in a Sea Kayak and became part of the Stohlquist Pro Team, Current Designs Ambassador team, Level 6 Ambassador Team, Nimbus Paddles Pro team and have grown my EcoQuest Adventures to teaching many kids paddling throughout Victoria.
I have been fortunate to be able to teach at Symposiums all over North America. I have also had the opportunity to paddle in the Baltic Sea and Europe. I have recently started some river paddling, though my true love for paddling is in rough water. I enjoy tide races, beach break, and rock gardening. As a result of my love for kayaking and my passion for sharing it with others, each year I take my family on a one week trip to a new place each time. I love passing my passion for paddling on to my children and the future generation. If you are new to paddling, check out my PDF of simple tips you need to know before get started.