69 days of paddling: this is what Alaska to Vancouver Island looks like by kayak

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.”

Although the group had luck with weather, Enright says, they did see some stormy seas and huge crashing waves on the rugged, exposed coastline. This picture was taken near the beginning of the trip in southwest Alaska. (Owen Enright)

Alex Morrow (left) and Andrew Green (right), just before setting off on the journey last June. (Owen Enright)

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 marked down their route each day as they went along the outer passage of the coast, averaging about 45 to 50 kilometers per day. (Submitted by Owen Enright)

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. 

A whale ducks under water. Enright says he has a new appreciation and desire to protect the coast after the trip. (Owen Enright)

Each morning, a different member of the group would take turns getting up earlier than everyone else to prepare coffee and get the day started. This picture was shot in the first week of the trip. (Owen Enright)

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.” 

The group would be isolated and self-sufficient for weeks at a time, fishing and foraging for food. (Owen Enright)

‘I grew up on a beach looking at the ocean every day, says Enright. ‘And I had a dream of seeing the entire coast.’ (Owen Enright)

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. 

Paddling through ice in Alaska, at the beginning of the trip. (Owen Enright)

The group of friends – some going back as far as high school – came from various outdoor and adventurous backgrounds, from kayak guides to working for the B.C. Wildfire Service. Picture from left to right: Owen Enright, Alex Morrow, Arden Schiller, Andrew Green, and Gord Kerslake. (Owen Enright)

“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.”

Along with the kayaks, the team also brought surfboards and wet-suites to surf a handful of remote breaks. This was shot along the Juan De Fuca trail on Vancouver Island, as the team passed through Loss Creek. (Owen Enright)

A wolf walks along a misty beach. (Owen Enright)

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.”

Read more at CBC.ca