C&K Hero Sean Morely

Sean Morely portrait by Robert Zaleski

Sean Morely portrait by Robert Zaleski

By Joe Carberry

Sean Morley has paddled a sea kayak around Vancouver Island in record time (just over 17 days), was the first to traverse the entirety of the British Isles, including the inhabited islands – a 4,500-mile trip that took 183 days – and is a world champion surf kayaker. But he'd rather go paddling with you than tell you about it.

The English-born Morley's paddling has a well-trained precision, thanks to his time as a marathon and sprint paddler on the UK national team, but his utter love of kayaking seems at odds with his serious approach to on-water pursuits. While traversing the Straight of San Juan De Fuca, also known as the Graveyard of the Pacific, during his Vancouver Island mission last fall, Morley's boat rose and fell 12 feet with every swell. He hadn't seen another human for six days, and every wave pounding into the vertical cliffs served as an audible reminder that there was no way out but forward. Still, says Morley, "those whitewater boaters that drop waterfalls are way more gnarly." We beg to differ. Morley's expeditions blending speed and difficult, exposed conditions—such as crossing the Irish Sea in record time–have set a new standard for ocean kayakers. "I just do what I do," he says. "[Being called a hero] is embarrassing really. But if doing what I do gets people to go on their own trips, that's immensely gratifying."

This story first appeared in the March 2009 issue of Canoe & Kayak magazine.

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