By Conor Mihell
Last January, Canadian blogger and sea kayak instructor David Johnston lamented the final installment of Sea Kayak Podcasts, an online program delivered by British paddler Simon Willis. Starting in 2006, Willis, a sea kayaker, former BBC broadcast journalist and producer of the acclaimed Gordon Brown series of instructional DVDs, interviewed the who's who of sea kayaking and made the tapes available to the public through an online podcast. Johnston was amongst the program's many loyal followers. However, a change in Apple's uploading software made Willis pull the plug in early 2012. (Willis' podcasts have recently returned to air.)
The gap in audio media was just the nudge Johnston needed to launch a podcast of his own. The bespectacled, unassuming, well-spoken Canuck from Toronto partnered with the outspoken and popular Michigan-based paddlesports industry vet Kelly Blades to develop Kayak Mainline, an hour-long, off-the-cuff and unscripted program of current affairs, jokes and interviews, aimed primarily at sea kayakers but covering the full spectrum of paddling disciplines. The first installment aired in June, with the eighth slated to go live in early November. The pair use Skype and basic voice recording software to tape the bi-monthly to monthly program. Then they make it available for free download via Stitcher.
Recently, CanoeKayak.com caught up with Johnston and Blades for a chat at the Georgian Bay Storm Gathering, an annual mid-October sea kayak festival Johnston co-organizes on northern Lake Huron.
How did Kayak Mainline come to be?
David Johnston: Whenever we got together at symposiums, Kelly and I talked about doing a podcast. That went on for about a year. Then Simon Willis' interviews stopped and we finally found the time to do it.
How did Willis' podcasts inspire yours?
DJ: His are really good and professional. We took his interview-based format and we made it lighter [and] introduced some talk around current affairs. It seems like every week there's a shark attack to talk about, so we have no shortage of news and information. We try to find the weird and quirky things that haven't been killed by every blogger out there. If you look hard enough there's no shortage.
Kelly Blades: We do a little bit of comedy, a little bit of technical knowledge and a lot of gossip. That's the basic formula.
How do you line up people to interview?
KB: We think about who's around and who's doing interesting stuff and we make a list of potential subjects. David is still amazed at the contents of my Rolodex.
How did you decide on the hour-long format?
DJ: No one else is doing a long-form program. Everyone else is 15 or 20 minutes.
KB: Really, we could go longer. We can't talk enough; we're just too damn narcissistic.
What do each of you bring to the podcast?
KB: David researches all the news and works on the planned out elements of the show. He's a workhorse. He does the sweaty work and I get to talk.
DJ: That's about it. Kelly brings the showmanship and I play the straight guy.