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A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.

- John James Audubon


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“Where’s your end of the road?”

“Why would you want to do that?”.

WRITTEN BY

Mark Sawyer

“What’s wrong with where you live now?”

“You’ll be back, it’s better here.”

Or very occasionally, “I wish I had the guts to do what you’re doing.”

In 2014, my girlfriend and I gave up our career jobs, and decided to move to BC, Canada. We worked the winter as snowboard instructors at Fernie Alpine Resort. Building knowledge, developing friendships, but it felt more like a stop-gap. It just wasn’t home. To find “home” I’d need to reach the end of the road.

I was a teacher in the UK. Leaving a school and explaining to students where you were going would always lead to the same questions. The same confusion as to why you would ever dream of leaving the place they have grown up. Colleagues understood. The opportunity to remove ourselves from the daily grind, the grumble of engines and the grey of a concrete jungle, and place ourselves in the heart of lush rainforest and Pacific swell was too good to turn down.

After Fernie, we visited Tofino, BC. The intention was to find a job, and if we liked it – the “if” seems ridiculous at this point – we’d stay for the summer. Tofino, as all great places should, requires you to want to go there in order to get there. It’s as far West as Highway 4 goes on Vancouver Island. Situated in remote coastal temperate rainforest, it is, quite literally, the end of the road. No one passes through. No one is here just to get to the next town. This is it, and it is home.

Mark Sawyer. Jake: This Sea Otter is wrapped up in kelp. They do this when resting to avoid being moved around by tides and swell.

The appeal of Tofino is obvious after a quick internet search. Sprawling beaches, ancient rainforest, calm inlet waters, rolling Pacific swells. Kayaking, surfing, paddle boarding and hiking make up much of Tofino “to do” lists. That’s before you get to experience First Nation canoe tours or visit Hot Springs Cove. Everyone who visits Tofino does so for a purpose. No one accidentally stumbles across this place. Whether it’s to surf Canada’s most popular breaks, or paddle to the Big Tree Trail, people arrive with a goal. For me, that goal was wildlife.

Mark Sawyer. This Killer Whale, named T069, is what started my fascination. I spent hours trying to figure out who she was. I’m better at it now, but remember the feeling of figuring out her history. She was born in or before 1974, and is a mother of 5 surviving offspring. I’ve seen her multiple times since this encounter, and it’s always special.

Being born in the UK, it can be a frustrating existence having an interest in wildlife. Most of it fearful, much of it small, the UK has pockets of incredible wildlife; Tofino allows me to access some of the most interesting wildlife in the world, right on my doorstep. I work on the water as a wildlife guide. My daily grind includes harbour seals, sea lions, and sea otters. Grey whales or black bears the focal point of most tours. Occasionally humpback whales or coastal wolves will grace us with their presence. I spend my days off heading back onto the water, worried I’ll miss something. I watch eaglets grow and eventually fledge. I’ve seen bear cubs wrestle with their moms. Had curious grey whale calves spyhop and check us out.

Mark Sawyer. Ted’s Gang: Transient Killer Whales travel down Sidney Inlet at golden hour.

My most memorable moments have been with Killer Whales. Bigg’s Killer Whales spend over 80 days a year in the area. Mammal-eating Killer Whales, that I have now come to recognise by sight. I’ve seen hunts, watched new-borns socialise, heard them vocalise.

Mark Sawyer. Whale Tail: Our most frequently sighted cetacean, the Grey Whale, flukes while diving to feed.
A boy who grew up in a small mining town in the UK, is now a man who watches Killer Whales so often he can tell them apart.

To answer the question, “What’s wrong with where you live now?”, the answer is probably, “nothing”. But is it where you want to end up, or are you just passing through?

Where’s your end of the road?

Mark Sawyer. Lennard Last Light: The end of a Tofino sunset looking out over Lennard Island.

Mark Sawyer is a British expat, and wildlife viewing guide for Jamies Whale Watching Station in Tofino. You can find more of his photography here.

If you’re interested in finding the end to your road, check outdoorvoyage.com

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Kayaking’s Elite Return to India at the Malabar River Festival

During the week of July 18th to 22nd, the Malabar River Festival returned to Kerala, India with one of the biggest cash prizes in whitewater kayaking in the world.

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WRITTEN BY

Brooke Hess

A $20,000 purse attracted some of the world’s best kayakers to the region for an epic week battling it out on some of India’s best whitewater.

The kayaking events at Malabar River Festival were held on the Kuttiyadi River, Chalippuzha River, and the Iruvajippuzha River, in South India on the Malabar Coast. The festival was founded and organized by Manik Taneja and Jacopo Nordera of GoodWave Adventures, the first whitewater kayaking school in South India.

Photo: Akash Sharma

“Look out for these guys in the future because there are some future stars there”

One of the goals of the festival is to promote whitewater kayaking in the state of Kerala and encourage locals to get into the sport. One of the event organizers, Vaijayanthi Bhat, feels that the festival plays a large part in promoting the sport within the community.  “The kayak community is building up through the Malabar Festival. Quite a few people are picking up kayaking… It starts with people watching the event and getting curious.  GoodWave Adventures are teaching the locals.”

Photo: Akash Sharma

Vaijayanthi is not lying when she says the kayak community is starting to build up.  In addition to the pro category, this year’s Malabar Festival hosted an intermediate competition specifically designed for local kayakers. The intermediate competition saw a huge turnout of 22 competitors in the men’s category and 9 competitors in the women’s category. Even the professional kayakers who traveled across the world to compete at the festival were impressed with the talent shown by the local kayakers. Mike Dawson of New Zealand, and the winner of the men’s pro competition had nothing but good things to say about the local kayakers. “I have so much respect for the local kayakers. I was stoked to see huge improvements from these guys since I met them in 2015. It was cool to see them ripping up the rivers and also just trying to hang out and ask as many questions about how to improve their paddling. It was awesome to watch them racing and making it through the rounds. Look out for these guys in the future because there are some future stars there.”

Photo: Akash Sharma

 

“It was awesome because you had such a great field of racers so you had to push it and be on your game without making a mistake”

Vaijayanthi says the festival has future goals of being named a world championship.  In order to do this, they have to attract world class kayakers to the event.  With names like Dane Jackson, Nouria Newman, Nicole Mansfield, Mike Dawson, and Gerd Serrasolses coming out for the pro competition, it already seems like they are doing a good job of working toward that goal! The pro competition was composed of four different kayaking events- boatercross, freestyle, slalom, and a superfinal race down a technical rapid. “The Finals of the extreme racing held on the Malabar Express was the favourite event for me. It was an epic rapid to race down. 90 seconds of continuous whitewater with a decent flow. It was awesome because you had such a great field of racers so you had to push it and be on your game without making a mistake.” says Dawson.

Photo: Akash Sharma

The impressive amount of prize money wasn’t the only thing that lured these big name kayakers to Kerala for the festival. Many of the kayakers have stayed in South India after the event ended to explore the rivers in the region. With numerous unexplored jungle rivers, the possibilities for exploratory kayaking are seemingly endless. Dawson knows the exploratory nature of the region well.  “I’ve been to the Malabar River Fest in 2015. I loved it then, and that’s why I’ve been so keen to come back. Kerala is an amazing region for kayaking. In the rainy season there is so much water, and because the state has tons of mountains close to the sea it means that there’s a lot of exploring and sections that are around. It’s a unique kind of paddling, with the rivers taking you through some really jungly inaccessible terrain. Looking forward to coming back to Kerala and also exploring the other regions of India in the future.”

 

For more information on the festival, visit: http://www.malabarfest.com/

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