Crossing Hecate Strait

At first I thought that maybe this belonged on the SUP Forum but after reviewing the contents there I feel that Wilderness Tripping is where it should be. I wanted to point out something pretty remarkable that happened recently on a scary body of water that I have spent some time in.

I’m often unimpressed by what passes for an “expedition” to some folks. I think of an expedition as:
• An endeavor that has been done by few if any others before.
• A venture where there are some serious unknowns.
• Something that you undertake with the expectation that situations that must be managed can arise.
• A trip where there is sparce if any support.
• An activity where, if help is needed it might not get to you in time to make a difference.

I don’t see an individually ambitious jaunt through the San Juans or a two – three week kayak trip to Hakai as an expedition. Heck, very few paddlers are undertaking true expedition paddling. In all of my years on the water I have certainly never gone on what I consider an expedition. Adventures, yeah. True adventures? Maybe. So, when I read Norm Hann’s recent posting about crossing Hecate Strait with his trip partner, Bruce Kirby, I was and remain very impressed.

I’ve been following Norm’s adventures for the past several years and it is clear that he views the coast and its original people through different eyes. His adventures incorporate imaginative routes with all the attendant risks.

Hecate Strait lies between Haida Gwaii and the outer coast of BC. It is ~140nm long and between ~27 – 70nm wide. Currents run north/south up to 3kts and weather systems bring winds that often oppose that current. Depending on who you talk to it is often referred to as one of the most dangerous bodies of water on earth and certainly the most dangerous on the west coast of Canada. A lot has been written about the dangers of Hecate Strait so I won’t repeat those reports here. Try Google.

Just sayin’ that crossing the strait in any small craft will be an adventure and Norm refers to the 12 hour crossing in understated fashion as a “paddleboard journey”. I’m impressed. He didn’t call it an expedition or even a “real adventure” but it ticks all of the boxes for me and is totally badass.

Ivan Chouinard once said:
“Real adventure is defined best as a journey from which you may not come back alive and certainly not as the same person.”


Definitely would have to be the last item on my “bucket list”!

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The kayak is one of the most fascinating inventions. In many ways, it rivals a space launch.

Call it whatever you want. Cold water, ship traffic, major fetch, no rescue, intense tides and currents, etc. The Northern Pacific especially out in the Queen Charlottes far from the mainland, is not for everyone.


The Haida’s crossed Hecate Strait in dugout canoes for thousands of years on their raiding parties. I suppose that some might say that if they could do it it’s no big deal but they had it down. I’ve paddled the length of Hecate but stayed close enough to shore that I felt that I could bail if need be.


They were using rough water touring Stand Up Paddle boards I believe. They made really good time, I suppose they timed this with the winds and current to downwind, it must have been a heck of a ride.

If you are interested in SUP paddler who has done very remarkable expeditions, check out Casper Steinfath. Crossing from Denmark to Norway and circumnavigated Denmark. Most paddlers would be challenged to even stand up paddling on the Skagerrak in the conditions he crossed in.

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They weren’t downwinding. They chose light conditions. Currents and what wind they had was north/south and their route was west to east.