“I was the only person camped on the (San Juan) islands, something I wasn’t expecting. Coming from Seattle, such a crowded place, it was amazing how easy it was to get away from everyone.”
– Matthew Williams, OP Adventure Writer and TRAK Ambassador
We all find ourselves, at times, seeking out there. We’ve all escaped at one time or another, and it's usually the din of the big city or a shrinking cubicle or even the four walls of our own homes. Being “out there" is where we often find peace "in here". There are no walls out there. There are no sirens. This is the story of one way to rediscover those spaces and that silence.
There are no crowded trails on open water. The earth is three-quarters covered with it, so there’s lots of room to wander. Unlike rails, roads and trails, the open water never constrains or constricts. You can sail your own trail in almost any direction. You could paddle for or against the current, north to south or even west to Hawaii (yes, it’s been done in a kayak) or just trace the coastline. It’s pure freedom.
Matthew Williams is a freelance photographer who’s called the mountains, rivers and waterways of surrounding Seattle home for seven years. He’s helping us remember our love of water and how easy it is to access water adventure. He’s also showing us how we can do it by demonstrating the classic art of kayak camping. On Sunday (September 6th), Matthew will be telling some of these stories and doing a test event for the TRAK kayak at Golden Gardens Park in Seattle. Click here to find out about the event and sign up.
"The minute you put on the water… there’s no one there. You might run into a sailboat, that’s it... it’s unlike any other outdoor experience anywhere near the city. Even putting on the Sound near Seattle you’re mostly going to be alone out there.”
In a unique partnership between a digital outdoor field guide and the manufacturer of a skin-on-frame kayak perfected over 4,000 years, Matthew was hired to contribute his stories of paddling on the high and low seas. Outdoor Project is a comprehensive online resource and community for outdoor adventure and travel, revolutionizing the way that people find, search for and share their outdoor experience. TRAK Kayaks is the manufacturer of the world’s only packable, portable performance kayak, revolutionizing the way people paddle, when they paddle and where they paddle.
Outdoor Project opens doors to human-powered outdoor activities; TRAK just unleashed its revolutionary Seeker kayak on Seattle, giving unparalleled access to the open water. Think of it as the ultimate software and hardware marriage (but kinder than some in the tech world), a strategic partnership that’s being unleashed and templated in Seattle. The software consists of richly detailed adventure guides online – photos, maps, directions, tips; the hardware is a unique portable kayak that can actually change its shape on water, to suit any water conditions – from flat calm to rolling surf.
The partnership is collaborating with the Seattle community, to engage local paddlers and adventurers like Matthew Williams, and established paddlesport store owners and expert instructors, like Steve Jones of Cascade Paddlesports (since 1997), to provide adventure resources to everyone. For more advanced paddlers, seeking expert open water training and support, the collaboration includes the iconic George Gronseth, kayak safety author and owner of Kayak Academy (since 1991).
“With kayak camping, the main difference is that you can take a lot more comfort items than you could in a backpack…. like a bottle of wine and real stove! You can be more comfortable, and worry less about weight.”
Matthew paddled the TRAK Seeker on 25 regional Washington paddling trips. Some of the best sea kayaking destinations are right here in Washington: the San Juan Islands, Seattle, the Olympic Peninsula and Puget Sound. A total of 50 local kayak adventures have been fully documented and detailed with custom maps on Outdoor Project’s platform, making it easy for others to share the experience.
There are open water crossings, with changing currents and commercial vessel traffic, that require some basic training in navigation, safety and rescue. That goes for almost any water sport or pleasure craft. Weather conditions can change and the sea is a living body that needs to be respected. But many of these local adventures are close to shore and easy to experience with limited training. Kayak camping on more remote islands is incredibly rewarding, like a hike deep into a forest or up a distant mountain, both water and land exploration demanding a bit more preparation and knowledge.
This is where the partnership and the collaboration with local experts shines. Outdoor Project is known for its accurate and informed content so you know what kind of adventure you’re getting into. The TRAK Seeker has a near bullet-proof polyurethane skin (like on the navy Zodiacs) on an aerospace-grade aluminum fame (you can run a truck over it and we have). It also has a secret weapon – a set of hi-tech hydraulic jacks – to be able to change the shape of the hull (the rocker or curve of the hull) to adapt to calmer, flat water or rolling, moving water. Support, training and additional watersports gear and accessories is provided by the collaboration with Cascade Paddlesports and Kayak Academy.
“Once you’re on an island, the campsites are well-maintained. You can cook a real meal and sit by a real fire. And most islands have a trail network: you can explore forests or lighthouses or the rich intertidal life, along the coast at low tide."
Both Outdoor Project and TRAK are are committed to raising awareness and access to the natural spaces across Washington and the Pacific Northwest - those special places we can explore outside for the experience it leaves inside. Then, share it with others. The more people that discover and intimately experience the richness of our natural world, the more likely we are to preserve and protect them. "We believe the best way to encourage others to advocate for natural and special aquatic places and wildlife is first-hand experience." Steve Jones, manager of Cascade Paddlesports, was excited to add the Seeker to his line of kayaks because it offered even wider access to more outdoor enthusiasts.
Of course, the challenge of owning a 16 foot sea kayak for many urban-based paddlers is… where do you store it? Unlike a mountain bike, it won’t fit into the elevator. And without a roof rack, you’re not going to drive it safely anywhere. Metro, water taxis, ferries and Car2Go are out of the question. Until now. TRAK makes the one performance sea kayak that you can store in your closet, take down the elevator, wheel across town on the metro and even stash in the trunk of your compact car… and then handle any surf conditions out there (including landing on rock shores, rough stone beaches or sharp dockside splinters).
Kayak camping is calling. The Pacific Northwest is the perfect backdrop to explore this outdoor pursuit, the new cross-over from (land) trail hiking and the perfect bridge from backpacking to experience a new kind of freedom… on water. Finally, accurate and essential knowledge is conveniently packaged on an accessible digital platform; finally, someone took an ancient, tried-and-tested Inuit kayak design, applied modern materials and patented shape-shifting technology to produce the Seeker. Finally, an elegant convergence of mind and matter (and a boat you can stash in your closet). Are you ready to answer the call?
Learn more about: TRAK in Seattle