After 12 months of planning and dreaming, the STAND expedition finally came to fruition. Delayed a month because we simply weren't ready and still didn't have a boat to make our base camp out of. Touching down in Masset after an incredible float plane flight across Hecate Strait to see Soul Haven tied up at the dock made it all a reality. The next 2 weeks we would be living on a 40 foot sail boat coasting down the eastern shoreline of Haida Gwaii. Iconic for its First Nations culture and famous for its natural beauty, the trip didn't disappoint.
The purpose of the trip was to document Norm Hann's 350km stand up paddleboard journey for my current film project STAND. Norm and I had hatched a plan to do some kind of paddling expedition as part of his StandUp4GreatBear protest against the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline and tanker route. Considering the tankers could potentially the waters of Hecate Strait that separates mainland British Columbia from the archipelago of Haida Gwaii, it seemed a relevant and truly remote adventure.
The crew consisted of co-creator Nic Teichrob, Norm Hann, James Retty (the owner of Escape Route and sponsor of the project) and our skipper Nigel Praine. It was an incredible journey down the coast enjoying sun and calm seas the whole time. Part of the reason for to undertake the expedition here was to encounter and document some of the harsh weather that the region is famous for, but in terms of shooting it was a blessing that we had such smooth conditions. Along the way we spent time with the Haida Watchmen at each of the five culturally significant sites, sharing good conversion, halibut fish and chips and witnessing an inspiring demonstration of the Haida way of life. The stop at Windy Bay was particularly fitting as it was the site of the Lyell Island stand to protect the southern islands from logging. Gazing up at a 900 year old sitka spruce there was real proof of what had been saved through the valiant efforts of others in 1985.
Racing the weather we made it to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Ssgang Gwaii on Day eight. A truly powerful place, it's carved totems stand sentinal at the water's edge. An exposed island with nothing but ocean all the way to Japan, it is an oasis despite the lashing that it takes from the weather and seas. Listening to Shirley talk by the fire as the sun set about being at the Lyell Island stand 27 years before was an apt conclusion to the journey, leaving us with no option but to share the landscape and stories that we had captured along the way in the hope that it might not be destroyed by a potential oil spill.
Cruising back to Rose Harbor we went to sleep that night exhausted from the activities and stimulus of the past week. What we rose to the next morning was textbook west coast foul weather with 55knot winds slamming the boat and pouring rain all day. We quickly realized how lucky we were with the weather and how fruitfless the filming would have been if we had encountered 2 weeks of weather such as that--an entirely entirely possible scenario.
Letting the winds and seas die down, we left later the next day and began a spicy open ocean crossing to of Queen Charlotte Sound to Port Hardy. 30 hours riding the wind through the night was an experience I will never forget, sharing the watch with Nigel, howling as we rode the swell into the darkness.
There is much to be said about the expedition. Now, 3 months later, I am still coming to terms with the entire experience. It is still sinking in. But as it sinks in, it morphs into the tale of adventure and characters that we are shaping as the film STAND. The whole story and much of its impact and subtlety will be shared in due time. In the meantime, Haida Gwaii and it's 10,000 years of living history is there for all to go and explore for themselves.
A huge thanks to the crew, particularly Nigel for navigating his boat into some tight waters while I direct him from the top of the mast with a camera glued to my face. James Retty for putting getting behind the project, a very rare thing for a small business owner to do. A big high five fist pound to Quiksilver Waterman and the Quiksilver Foundation for supporting this project in such a huge way. Again a very rare thing for big business to become vocal about such a big issue.
For more information and lots of pretty videos go to the official STAND website, www.standfilm.com.
fJune 12 months of working towards