Canadian Joe O’Blenis has reclaimed his speed record for circumnavigating British Columbia’s Vancouver Island by sea kayak. O’Blenis completed the 750-mile journey on Saturday with an epic 55-mile day along the Gulf Islands, just across the border from Washington’s San Juans. He finished his “Race Around the Island” in 16 days, 12 hours and 14 minutes-shaving about 14 hours off the previous record, set by British paddler Sean Morley in 2008.
In an interview with local television station Chek News, O’Blenis said he was looking forward to celebrating his trip with “at least a couple of beers” at an impromptu arrival party hosted by outfitter Robin Thacker and members of the West Coast Paddler Web forum. “I hear there’s a party waiting on Newcastle Island [O'Blenis' start and finish point, near the city of Nanaimo, B.C.],” he told a reporter in Victoria, B.C. “I’m kind of in a hurry to get there.”
O’Blenis battled headwinds, was capsized once by a large breaking wave, was forced to resupply on the fly when a prearranged food drop went missing, and had to swap boats when the skeg of his Nigel Dennis Greenlander Pro malfunctioned on day 12. En route he paddled some of the wildest coastline in the Pacific Northwest, rounding notoriously fickle headlands like Cape Scott and the Brooks Peninsula, and encountered hundreds of whales. “It got to the point that you don’t even turn around anymore when you hear them,” he told Chek News.
As O’Blenis’ race to set a new speed record came down to the wire, paddlers and armchair enthusiasts flocked to his website where his partner, Diane Hogan, was posting progress updates (http://www.joeoblenis.com/vancouverisland2010.htm). It was also possible to track O’Blenis’ position via his SPOT GPS messenger page. Chatter intensified on discussion forums like www.westcoastpaddler.com as he approached Nanaimo. When he landed on Saturday afternoon, Hogan triumphantly announced, “He’s got it!!! The record is back on Canadian soil and Joe is finished!!! Let the party begin!!!”– Conor Mihell
Read our story tracking O’Blenis below:
The Big One – Joe O’Blenis Close To Another Vancouver Island Speed Record