Wendy Killoran paddles off the south coast of Newfoundland.
In 2004, veteran Canadian sea kayaker Wendy Killoran circumnavigated Lake Huron's Manitoulin Island, the largest freshwater isle in the world. The next year, she became the first woman to sea kayak around an entire Canadian province, paddling solo around Prince Edward Island. And in 2006, she became the first woman to circumnavigate Newfoundland -- a 2,700-kilometer journey that took more than three months to complete.
Accompanied along Newfoundland's south coast by renowned German sea kayaker Freya Hoffmeister, Killoran completed the remainder of the expedition solo -- stopping often to enjoy the hospitality of the province's coastal residents.
At this year's Canoecopia, scheduled for March 9-11 at the Alliant Energy Center's Exhibition Hall, Killoran will join Hoffmeister on a panel scheduled for noon Saturday, March 10, featuring seven women whose combined paddling accomplishments are unrivaled. A London, Ontario teacher and the mother of a teenage daughter, Killoran will also introduce a photographic presentation on her Newfoundland foray three times during Canoecopia weekend, at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 9; 3:30 p.m. Saturday, March 10; and 10:30 a.m. Sunday, March 11.
In a Q&A conducted via email, Killoran provides context and previews her program.
The Daily Page: When and how did you fix on your ambition to circumnavigate Newfoundland?
Killoran: In January, 2006, I decided that I just needed to listen to my inner self. I felt this strong urge to go on a big adventure. I have been drawn to the Maritimes and maritime-like places but I recognized that I had a strong desire to paddle around Newfoundland as I'd visited Newfoundland numerous times, and it's a place that seeps into your soul due to the genuine warmth of the people, the unique communities and the superlative scenery.
I knew it would be a very demanding challenge, but I wanted to succeed at a big challenge and grow as a person. I wanted to know that I could do it. I have read about so many other people's journeys and it just nagged at me, "Why not me?"
As a Canadian paddler, I knew that there were still many unique challenges I could succeed at and hopefully inspire other women and men too, to dream big and just go for it. I was going to do this, with or without a partner.
What make and model boat did you rely on?
I paddled a Current Designs Solstice GTS, one of the originally Canadian manufactured CD kayaks. I'd paddled this kayak for six years. I was very comfortable with the boat and it is light enough, since it is Kevlar, that I can carry it by myself when necessary.
You've undertaken longer and longer expeditions in each of the last three years. Are you finding a direct correlation between the length or duration of an undertaking and its inherent appeal?
Yes. I have always had an insatiable desire to be adventuresome, but like so many others, I'd made it difficult to leave behind the obligations and responsibilities I have made for myself. It just felt like the time was now or never. Some people call it "mid-life crisis". I had this burning yearning to follow my heart, to feel free and live adventurously. I am of the frame of mind that everything happens for a reason. I was open to all the possibilities that existed due to my choosing to take on this unique challenge and journey. In my own way, I was trying to seek recognition and a feeling of worth, by succeeding at such a daunting challenge, mainly solo.
Who do you anticipate as your audience at Canoecopia? Why should people come see your presentation?
I anticipate several people attending my presentation will be people who lived my adventure vicariously through my blog to Justine Curgenven and Derrick Mayoleth. Others will read the program and might have their curiosity stirred. Others might have read magazine articles and will want to hear my story in greater depth and maybe there will be people who silently have dreams glowing within themselves and will want to hear the story of how an ordinary woman simply made this happen through passion and strength of mind. I'll be interested in seeing who attends. Maybe there will be people who are thinking of traveling to Newfoundland.
People should come to my presentation if they want to hear my account of how I have reflected about the journey. They'll get to hear about hardships, beauty, hospitality, statistics, highs and lows, mishaps and reasons for exploring. I don't provide a narrative day-by-day account. The experience is simply too overwhelming for that. I'll present a speech followed by a digital slide presentation put to music. I am as passionate about my photography as I am about my paddling. I think people will leave the presentation touched in some way, hopefully inspired to some degree.
In addition to Canadian, Greenlandic and Icelandic waters, you've paddled in the Bahamas, Belize, Bonaire, Florida and Italy. How might you compare the appeal of Caribbean and Mediterranean waters to the North Atlantic -- and do you harbor a preference for one over the other?
It is all about the feeling of being on the water. I do like being in grand, natural splendor but I just as much enjoy cultural experiences as I am kayaking. Variety is the spice of life. It is not only about the places I paddle, but the people I meet along the journeys. I see the beauty in sculpted icebergs and coral reefs.
This world is so wondrous, that I don't want to limit myself to only one paddling destination and yet I never cease enjoying paddling on Lake Huron near my home throughout the years throughout the changing seasons. I like to balance things. After several seasons of paddling in a drysuit, I'll gladly exchange my drysuit for a bathing suit!
Between presentations, what do you look forward to doing at this year's Canoecopia?
I look forward to being a member of an all female paddling panel, where we'll get to discuss various issues and concerns and ideas. It will be a unique opportunity to be part of a very dynamic group of female paddlers.
I'll also be attending the Current Designs booth at the exhibition since Current Designs is my sponsor as well as Kokatat. I truly appreciate their generous support. I hope to inspire others to get on the water and to get paddling.
Paddling is such an all encompassing past time which I call aqua therapy. Paddling improves one's health and is beneficial to our emotional, spiritual and physical well being. Paddling is an exciting way to explore this planet where three quarters is covered by water.
I am looking forward to attending the launch of Justine Curgenven's "This Is The Sea 3" and to meeting and connecting with interesting people. And, maybe even a little bit of shopping:-) I'm also looking forward to meeting Derrick Mayoleth, who will be one of the expedition team members of my next kayaking expedition. And of course I'm looking forward to meeting Freya Hoffmeister again, my paddling companion along the south shore of Newfoundland. This should be a great event with just so much to do!
What is your next sea kayaking ambition? And to what other firsts do you aspire?
My next sea kayaking journey will have me as a member of a three person team, including Derrick Mayoleth and Taino Almestica, which will circumnavigate Puerto Rico in August 2007. http://www.kayakquixotica.com/Puerto-Rico-2007.html I'm always looking ahead and dreaming of new adventures. I will have an eight-month self-funded leave of absence from teaching starting in January 2009. And I can assure you, I'll be paddling my kayak on an exotic journey.
As for aspiring for other "firsts," that's not really why I paddle. I paddle because I love to be on the water, enjoy a good adventure, and I love giving myself unique challenges. If I happen to be the first, well then that's that.