Some days on the ocean were so monotonously gruelling that kayaker Owen Enright would count from zero to 5,000 over and over again in a silent cycle, just to pass the time and take his mind off what his body was doing — kayaking from Alaska to Vancouver Island.
Enright, 28, is one of five friends who paddled the ambitious route over the summer. It swept around the rugged outside passage of the coast, a more challenging and rare trip than cruising along the more sheltered inside passage.
“Picture waking up in a tent — you’re absolutely disgusting, you’re sweaty, you haven’t showered but just been bathing in salt water,” Enright said.
“Then, you spend up to nine hours in a dry suit which is essentially a sauna.”
Every morning, for 69 days, they’d wake up and do it all over again.
“There were days on the water where you’re just literally saying, ‘Left. Right. Left. Right,'” Enright said.
The group covered a few dozen kilometres each day on average, spending a lot of their time fishing and foraging for food as well as paddling.
Every few weeks, the team would stop to replenish their stocks at a set drop-off point but, the rest of the time, they were self-sufficient and isolated.
Being so exposed to the elements and reliant on the natural world made environmental concerns already on Enright’s mind more important to him.
“We’re living in a time where there’s a lot of turmoil between ourselves and the environment and how we’re treating it,” said Enright, who previously worked as a kayak guide and is now going into teaching.
“I’ve always been environmentally conscious but I feel like I have a much larger reason to protect this place now.”
For Enright who grew up playing on the beaches of Vancouver Island and gazing out toward the ocean, the journey was much more than a kayak trip.
He said it’s about proving that dreams, no matter how impossible they may seem, can be made reality with a bit of grit and perseverance.
“It’s not about our trip and this isn’t about us,” Enright said. “It’s about [other people] realizing what they can do, too.”
Enright admits he was scared before the trip but hopes to inspire others to take a chance, be more adventurous and appreciate B.C.’s coasts.
“You don’t have to get out and paddle from Alaska to Victoria,” he said. “But be more grounded to where you are and understand how connected we are to this world.”