The Hurricane Riders
Pushing Sea Kayaking to the Edge
Like so many nefarious plans, the idea for The Hurricane Riders was hatched in a Volkswagen Van.
In January 2008, after a stormy day paddling off West Vancouver’s Ambleside Beach, sea kayak instructors James Dunderdale and Marty Perry took shelter in Dunderdale’s bus, where they passed the time swapping surf stories. Soon they were lamenting the relative lack of thrill-seeking sea kayakers, and deciding to do something about it. In the weeks that followed, they recruited like-minded instructors Pawel Szopa, Rowan Gloag, Kim Hannula and Chris Wilson to the cause. By spring, a new sea-kayaking guild was terrorizing surf breaks and tide races throughout British Columbia. Their mission: Give sea kayaking an edgy new reputation, by pushing the sport to the edge.
They didn’t have to look far for inspiration. Bands of whitewater boaters such as Young Guns, Demshitz and the Epicocity Project have been barnstorming rivers from Tennessee to Tibet for the better part of this decade, filming their exploits to promote the sport and their all-gnar, all-the-time paddling lifestyles. But it all started with a tribe of California sea kayakers calling themselves the Tsunami Rangers, who helped redefine the sport’s outer limits in the 1980s and ‘90s. Now the Hurricane Riders plan to take it up a notch. “The whitewater guys are doing a great job at making their sport appealing,” says Szopa. “They’re paddling incredible runs and making great videos with good
music. You don’t see that in sea kayaking, but that’s what we plan to do.”
They have a feature-length documentary in the works, but for now you can get an eyeful of their antics at Canoekayak.com. The style is Justine Curgenven meets Dogtown and Z-Boys. A catchy reggae beat backs everything from oh-sweet-Jesus surf sessions to wildlife shots, fireside grease bombs and the crew shaving the THR logo into their heads. The clips also include shots of huge seal launches and don’t-try-this-at-home snowfield hijinks.
While all this seems to undermine their avowed commitment to represent ocean kayaking safely, it’s right in line with making it more exciting. And the Hurricane Riders are the right people for both jobs. All are professional kayak instructors and guides. “While we aren’t building a club, we have one simple rule,” says Szopa. “If you join us on the water, then you’re an honorary
Hurricane Rider. It isn’t about who’s in and who’s out. It’s about paddling.”
This year’s itinerary includes the Okisollo tidal rapid of British Columbia’s Quadra Island, a tide race so powerful that it has capsized commercial fishing boats. Then they’re off to spread the sea kayak love with a road trip down Vancouver Island’s West Coast, hitting all the major surf spots frequented by their stand-up counterparts. “We want to hit Cox Bay on a storm,” says Perry. “We’ve seen 20-30 footers there and we’re ready to push the outer edge of the sport by surfing monster waves.”
– Eugene Buchanan