— by Dax Justin
ALL PHOTOS © DAX JUSTIN & TRAK KAYAKS
Surrounded by crashing waves and temperate rainforests, this expedition takes place within a magical marine ecosystem - basically a dream come true! As a Canadian Explorer and adventure photographer, I recently embarked on my second sea kayaking expedition with TRAK Kayaks, paddling in the only national park on Vancouver Island: the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.
First things first - when it comes to TRAK, community is everything. It is all about building your tribe, because you'll leave this camp feeling like family with the other camp participants. You'll be advancing your sea kayaking skills and expedition behavior together, and nothing brings you closer to people (and nature) than shared experiences.
Our goals at a TRAK camp are to make you into a master of your new boat, to help you onto a path to improve your paddling skills, and to empower you as an active expeditionary participant. There's a very unique character to the waves along this stretch of coast - it's the very opposite of calm water, and they often give you a lot of factors to manage at once. We have specifically designed this camp to help you upgrade your boat control capabilities, regardless of your current skill level, in one of the world's best locations for surf and waves.
Between on-land and on-water instruction from our TRAK Pilots, the way you level up your paddling skills is through your participation in the camp - the more you participate, the more you learn. For this camp, we send a handful of our Paddle Canada certified TRAK Pilots to teach our participants and help them achieve a high level of paddling aptitude in a short period of time.
You could call our TRAK Pilots the fearless champions of our skills camps. TRAK Pilots are our ambassadors who are some of the most passionate paddlers you'll meet. This year we had five TRAK Pilots on board to lead the camp: Eder A., Cole S., Zack K., Paige O, and Keith B. Having this many instructors on the water meant more one-on-one time with participants, and I instantly saw the impact this made in everyone's progress through the photos I captured! I was blown away by how the capabilities of EVERY PARTICIPANT rapidly advanced.
One of the tour participants, Victor C. earned both his Level 1 and Level 2 Paddle Canada certifications in sea kayaking during his time on this tour! Mind-blowing work, Victor!
We even had a TRAK Pilot join us from Minneapolis, MN. In her words: "TRAK brought us together, got us on the water, and gave us a life changing experience. It’s safe to say I will certainly be back for more, for the kayaking and the community." Read more about TRAK Pilot Paige’s experience at the camp this year "Building Resilience, Stoke, & Community."
This is the first expedition I've been on where EVERYONE TRANSFORMED. Let me explain that a little: in most cases, you'll go on a trip, see a few things, learn a few things, and call it a day - which is great! However, on this trip, I witnessed human achievement in the raw.
Through my camera lens it felt like I was with people in their kayak, and when I saw them going through hardships, I felt it with them. I felt them facing their fears - until the tides changed. Once the participants gained an understanding of their boat, their paddle blades, and the currents, they transformed. I saw every person turn their fear into confidence through a determination like I've never seen before.
On the final day of our expedition participants can go on a coastal paddle to a location called Wickaninnish Beach. This is the longest sand beach on the west coast of Vancouver Island and, for this reason, is an absolute playground for kayakers and surfers. With an endless stream of incoming waves, it's the perfect place for our camp participants to exercise their freshly-honed kayaking chops in the surf.
It is immensely gratifying for our team to be privileged with a community that really shows up. Witnessing these folks get unleashed after a long wait for their kayaks and join a tribe of like-minded paddlers is really what the TRAK experience is all about. Progress and accomplishment are yours for the taking at these camps, and you won’t believe what you’re capable of.
This experience has brought me closer to the water. Oceans provide food for billions of people on the planet, and they support 100% of life on Earth. After this expedition I'm now present to the fact that the well-being of this water literally impacts EVERYTHING ALIVE. I've discovered more about the relationship between humans and water using the TRAK 2.0 kayak as my vessel of connectivity, read more about this experience on my blog.