A story of an adventure to the remote Broughton Archipelago
10 september 2018
For most of us, exploring on a paddle board and seeing all kinds of wildlife is one of the most satisfying things in life. Experience freedom, beauty and silence. Some of the most beautiful areas in the world are best to be reached on a paddle board. These areas will amaze you and bring memories for life. Read on and get inspired by this touching story by Aya Kristina Engel, who went on adventure to Broughton Archipelago, located at the West-Coast in Canada. Don't forget the watch the short video about her SUP-trip at the bottom of this page!
My name is Aya Kristina Engel. I live in Vancouver BC and I am passionate about SUP touring.
There’s nothing I love more in life than paddling to a remote island, harvesting seafood from the area and cooking it over a campfire and sleeping on the beach. So in the last 4 years I’ve been getting deeper and deeper into island chains and exploring the coastline with my SUP board.
My reason to SUP: freedom, healthy for my body & the best views!
The feeling I had the first time I did an over night paddle trip- was akin to that feeling when you get your first car. A giant new found sense of freedom. I can go anywhere, whenever I want! feeling. Except this one is on water- with no ‘lanes’, less rules and more beaches. I love paddling on my SUP board because it’s so versatile. I find when I’m doing distance paddling in a kayak, my back gets stiff and cramps. On my SUP board, I can move my body in a more ergonomical way that feels good. I can rotate from standing, sitting or kneeling. Also, when you’re standing on SUP you get a WAY better view of the wild life beneath you. I have now paddled over top of orcas, humpbacks, seals, sea lions, and dolphins- and saw them ALL while standing on my board.
Our goal: Broughton Archipelago
This summer, my friends and I decided to go to the Northern tip of Vancouver Island to a place called the Broughton Archipelago. It should be noted that most Canadians have no idea where this is/have never heard of it. It is that remote. We chose this location due to its immense whale activity. We wanted to paddle with whales…and DID WE EVER!
“There’s nothing I love more in life than paddling to a remote island, harvesting seafood from the area and cooking it over a campfire and sleeping on the beach.Ē
Our route in the Broughtons consisted of paddling to a new island nearly every night. There is no fresh water on these islands, so we had to carry all our water on our boards, plus food, plus camping gear and clothes for all seasons (because northern BC isn’t always warm.) All the gear fits into 3 big dry bags that come with the Jobe board and strap on the board securely. A lot of people ask me if its hard- but it only slows us down a little bit.
Packing list: tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, small camping chair.5 gallon water jug, LOTS of food, whiskey, hot chocolate, pots, pans, water booties, neoprene layers, life jacket, extra paddle, spare pump, repair kits, marine compass, binoculars, maps + marine charts, lots of layers, (25 degree days and 0 degree nights!) sunscreen, bug spray, go pros, camping slippers, flip flops, first aid kits, 2 way radios (for emergency, but also for listening to the whale watching channel!) knife, para chord, fishing rod…you get the idea!
Type of SUP board for this adventure
A lot of the routes I’ve paddled have never been done before by SUP - they’ve been done by canoe or kayak, but SUP is such a new sport, and I think its mostly popular on lakes and ‘safer’ waters. But companies are now making touring boards that are designed for cutting thru big waves, and speed and having a great turning radius, and big enough to hold gear. If you want to get into touring- it’s important the board be 6Ē thick, otherwise the gear weight on the board will sink you. I use the Aero touring board by Jobe, 12.6 feet long, 32Ē wide and 6Ē thick. It is perfect for this adventure because it has great speed, is safe and durable and can hold all our stuff. But even more important: it is very lightweight, which makes a BIG difference in an adventure like this.
The day before we launched we were inquiring with local kayak guides and tour companies about the area. We had about a dozen people warn us that the winds were picking up and these were major channels and it wasn't safe. But we were determined- and we had prepared for this. We checked the wind forecasts and watched the tides + currents religiously. We timed all our routes to be with the wind or at least with the current. We knew what times the winds would pick up- so we woke up early to have some glassy calm water paddles (which is the best).
Day 1 & 2: our whale encounter
We spent 6 days in the Broughtons. Day 1 and 2 we sought out whales. We tuned our radios to channel 7 (the whale watching station) and paddled in the direction of humpback activity. We heard spouts, and paddled closer, and soon we were surrounded. For about 3 hours we had several pods of humpbacks circling us! We kept trying to get closer but still paddling cautiously because you never really know where they are or what they’ll do next. and they are SO GIANT! It’s a bit intimidating. Standing on board, we could here them moan, and sing! Then all of a sudden a humpback did a FULL BREACH (a full jump) out of the water, in front of mine and my friends board! We froze in shock of the enormity of this ancient giant creature being playful with us. Imagine a whale, the size of a semi truck, jumping out of the water, while you are on a vulnerable inflatable paddle board. I felt so small. However we quickly had to react because the breach caused waves in the water that could have easily knocked us over.
"I’ll remember that moment for the rest of my life."
Day 3: encounter with a black bear & dolphins
Day 3 we woke up to a black bear walking by our tent. He didn’t seem to be interested in us- rather we were more just in his way. Then we packed up camp and paddled east through the islands. In the distance, Valtteri (my partner) spotted a bear on another beach. We paddled closer and found him turning rocks, eating a breakfast of crabs on the beach. Again, the bear couldn’t care less about our presence- he was focused on eating. (there is a very narrow window of time when the eating is good for bears on the beach- at very low tide, when the marine life is more exposed).
After we left the bear eating breakfast scene (which felt like something right out of National Geographic) 15 minutes later we spotted our first pod of dolphins! We paddled hard to get closer, then THEY changed direction and came towards us! All of a sudden they were right beside our boards! But they were fast, and it all happened so quick, then they were off again.
We continued paddling and got to an island that is a Native Reserve. We hiked a bit and explored. Eating wild blueberries, salal berries, salmon berries, and blackberries. Then we camped on a beach on Turnour island- and tried fishing for Salmon but only caught cod. (Salmon fishing is an art I have yet to learn #bucketlist).
Day 5 & 6: sea lions & orcas
Day 5 & 6 we paddled back west and got to see some more humpbacks. We camped on a famous channel called Blackfish Sound (known for its Orca activity) It's basically an ocean highway for both whales and big boats. It was not quiet sleeping here. I timed it on my watch- an average of every 1 minute 30 seconds, a loud whale spout “PPPPPPOOOOUUUUUUUUFFFFFFFFFFĒ would go off. In the pitch black, I could hear so much commotion on the water- between huge sea lions splashing around and orcas singing, and humpbacks spouting. It was a west coast orchestra at its best. Side note- that was the only night I had to wear earplugs to sleep.
The last day
Our final day, we crossed a big channel and paddled back to Telegraph cove. A tiny fishing village, now known for it's whale tours. We noted that most tourists here are from Europe and rarely do Canadians even know about this place. Most of my friends didn’t even know we have orcas, dolphins, humpbacks and sharks on our coast. I guess it’s something associated with being in Mexico or Hawaii. But being wildlife spoiled in Canada- you can go in nearly any direction and see something remarkable. So naturally there are hundreds of relatively unknown secret gems to discover.
“In the pitch black, I could hear so much commotion on the water- between huge sea lions splashing around and orcas singing, and humpbacks spouting. It was a west coast orchestra at its best.Ē
For now, I have plenty of more islands to paddle. I feel so blessed to live on a coastline with so much wildlife. I believe it is important for people to get outside and experience the rugged wilderness. If you don’t, then you will never understand how special and precious it is. In southern Vancouver island the orca population is rapidly declining and the resident orcas are considered endangered. This is because of the heavy tanker traffic, the pollution and the salmon being over fished.
If more people got outside and experienced the magic of a whale breach or paddled with dolphins, I think the current proposed pipeline (that would put 500 more tankers per year in the Vancouver harbour) would definitely not go through! (there is currently a large country wild struggle whether the pipeline with go through at all). I have paddled and surfed all across the world. There aren’t many places left that are this wild and untouched.
It is important we protect it for future generations. I encourage people to get involved with their local areas to keep nature wild and keep habitats untouched.
Thanks Aya Kristina! Reading this story is like if we were with you during the trip. Let us know what you think of here story below. Did you have an adventure like this too? Let us know!
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