In looking back at the year in paddling that was, we asked our stable of contributors and editors what 2017 C&K story surprised them most as the best read. In assessing an array of noteworthy breaking news pieces, survival epics, story series and one particular illustrated oddity, the following highlights were determined by what grabbed our attention, elicited emotions and generated the most lasting thoughts.
CONTRIBUTING EDITOR MIKE BEZEMEK:
“Into the Danger Zone” is a great paddling adventure. Told in journal entries to Conor Mihell, a pair of London adventurers find themselves in a bit over their heads while nearing the end of their 800-mile circumnavigation of Palawan in the South China Sea. To navigate safely through terrorist-held waters, and past a place called Pirate Island, the governor dispatches a military escort. I’ll let the story take it from there, but be sure to check out Joe Potoczak’s companion article supported by an amazing photo gallery of the island landscape they traversed.
CONTRIBUTING EDITOR NATALIE WARREN:
I really enjoyed Zak Podmore’s opinion piece on the protection of public lands. I think it is great that C&K and other groups in the outdoor industry are connecting politics, environmental protections, and recreation. It is near impossible to just talk about canoeing and kayaking without connecting the larger issues that ultimately impact our experience as paddlers.
ONLINE EDITOR AARON MANN:
Honestly, the most entertaining piece I read on C&K this past year was that whitewater kayaking tribe piece. It’s generally quite difficult to stereotype groups without being offensive, but this piece was able to accomplish that feat brilliantly. Between the illustrations and the text, I could not control my laughter.
EDITOR-AT-LARGE JEFF MOAG:
First thing that comes to mind is David Jackson and Conor Mihell’s coverage of Mike Ranta's fourth cross-Canada canoe voyage attempt. The fact that Jackson spent the better part of a year as an embedded photojournalist is pretty epic, both from a canoeing and reporting standpoint. Conor’s words were on point too, as usual.
EDITOR-AT-LARGE ZAK PODMORE:
287.5 miles in 24 hours. That was the new distance paddling record clocked this summer when Tyler Bradt, Aniol Serrasolses, Todd Wells, and Brendan Wells hopped on the Middle Fork of the Salmon at flood stage and rode a pulse of snowmelt all the way to the Idaho-Oregon border. To best the previous world record of 274 miles, the crew had to paddle unfamiliar whitewater in the dark on nearly 90,000 cfs. Luckily, nobody swam until after the 24-hour mark. The mix of risk, adventure, and physical endurance made the Salmon Speed Run my favorite paddling story of 2017.
PHOTO EDITOR AARON SCHMIDT:
The Patagonia Triple Crown series was one of the high-water marks for visual storytelling in C&K this year. The Rio Bravo installment in particular was my favorite. Eric Parker did a great job at capturing the feel and immensity of the paddling landscape, which is kind of his forte. You have to appreciate the effort to paddle ahead, climb above the river, and the work that goes into getting both the epic vistas and his teammates within them. That's on top of photographing the more intimate moments around camp, side-trips and visits with the local horseman. His photos paint a vivid canvas that immerses viewers into the world of the expedition. Parker is special breed of photographer in that the quality of his images is directly related to his paddling skill, as a strong member of an expedition team that can not only keep up, but can also come back with the visual goods.
EDITOR-AT-LARGE CONOR MIHELL:
I have a couple of favorites, for parallel reasons: First, Jeff Moag’s investigative report about Emma Kelty (“The Deadly Call of the Amazon“) demonstrated to me that digital media has the capacity to relate compelling, long-form stories just like print. Besides feeling immersed in Jeff’s reporting, I was inspired by the huge online response for such a long, detailed story. No click-bait here! Second, I loved Katie McKy’s story about the German tourists who narrowly averted tragedy in the wilds of northern Manitoba (“Wrong Canoe, Right Stuff“). It’s classic adventure lit built on a foundation of good reporting, with eminently clickable subject matter. I admire Katie’s persistence in tracking down foreigners to get the story straight. From experience, I know how tough this can be.
EDITOR DAVE SHIVELY:
When I think back on 2017, this fall's national monument reduction debate struck a nerve for our readers, with, surprisingly, passionate support percolating up in social media threads on both sides. I thought Scott Willoughby did a great job explaining what is at stake for paddlers. Otherwise, it's hard to overstate the moxie and inspiring resolve of Aleksander Doba. And the 70-year-old Polish adventurer's historic third solo paddle-powered crossing of the Atlantic (only the second successful west-to-east Atlantic paddle ever) shouldn't be left off this list. I enjoyed Jeff Moag's clear and exciting reporting, outlining the drama at sea especially during the trying crux of Doba's crossing. The one story, however, that I can't get out my head is Moag's feature on Mike Roy's rescue of Ryan Lucas ("Over the Edge"). It speaks to calculating risk and mitigating exposure that any paddler can appreciate, and in his efforts to act fast, the harrowing tale paints a vivid picture of a paddler thinking quick and acting heroically to save a friend's life.