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Lessons in Humility “The kayak snapped in half like a dry twig.” Photo: Daniel Fox

After a spectacular crash landing, Daniel Fox is delayed but not discouraged

A conversation with Daniel Fox of the Wild Image Project about his spectacular crash landing and plans for next year.

 

For Daniel Fox, like the poets and philosophers he quotes on his Wild Image Project Pinterest page, journeying into the wilderness forges connections, shapes character and brings life into sharper focus. The same elements that inspire Fox make the Quebec native’s photographs and Minute of Nature video series compelling viewing for armchair adventurers. “I try to bring a certain sense of humility to human’s relationship with nature, and I think that’s something that’s been lost and people are struggling to find that balance,” he says.

Earlier this year, Fox launched his most ambitious expedition to date, a 1,000-mile paddle from Victoria, British Columbia, to San Francisco, raising funds to send underprivileged youths on a NOLS Alaska sea kayaking course. After 30 days successfully navigating the Washington coast, Fox found himself soaked, shivering and trapped after dark beyond the breakers just south of the Columbia River. Three months after washing ashore on an Oregon beach, Fox shares the details of that harrowing night. —Virginia Marshall

 

The Oregon coast has many long stretches with nowhere to land. Once you start paddling, you just have to keep going.

If I had to do it again, I would postpone my departure from Astoria. I knew before setting out that the paddling conditions were not the best.

It started as a beautiful evening; the plankton bloom was going crazy. But at my scheduled safe takeout at Indian Bay, the swell was wrapping around and hitting the beach with full force. The bioluminescence lit up the breakers in the night. Even though it was totally dark, I thought I’d be able to manage.

Just as I go for it, I hear this massive roar behind me. That’s the most frightening thing. It sounded like a monster rising above me.

It totally took me by surprise. I capsized, my paddle broke in two. I rolled up with half the paddle, got knocked over again. Between waves, I managed to self-rescue and grab my spare paddle.

The capsize hit me harder than I had anticipated. I was wearing a drysuit; I thought I could spend the night on the ocean. Thirty minutes later, the wind started to blow hard and I began to shiver. That changed everything.

Being so close to civilization was a bizarre experience. I could see the houses just 200 meters away, but between us were these huge waves.

The water was just a silhouette. I watched the breakers, then picked my time and went for it.

The second wave fell on top of me—that’s when the kayak broke in two.

My biggest worry was that I was floating right in the middle of these two heavy, gear-filled pieces of kayak. If the pieces collided, they would crush me. The skirt was attached to the broken cockpit coaming—I had to play with it for a while to remove it.

Worst-case scenario, I knew I could swim to shore. Because the wind and the current were not pushing me offshore, I never thought about calling for rescue.

I held onto the kayak and waited to get pushed to shore. After 15 minutes, I felt the sand under my feet. I pulled out my sleeping bag and fell asleep on the sand. 

It was a really humbling experience. It was a beautiful day and then everything turned upside down. That’s nature, that’s life. You have to be grateful for what you have. I still have my life, my legs. It reinforced everything I believe in.

I’m going back next summer to finish the trip to San Francisco.

If I had succeeded in one shot, it would have been too easy. I think we lose sight of that. It’s the Pacific coast, it’s supposed to be hard.

 

 

 

 PM Jan15 cover

This article first appeared in the December/January 2015 issue of Paddling MagazineDownload our free iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch App or Android App or read it on your desktop here. 

 


 

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