Kayaker receives Stz’uminus blessing

Before setting out on a 3,000-nautical-mile solo, unassisted kayak expedition, adventurer Wave Vidmar receives blessing in Ladysmith.

Members of the Stz’uminus First Nation blessed Wave Vidmar [far right] and his kayak June 6 at Transfer Beach

Members of the Stz’uminus First Nation blessed Wave Vidmar [far right] and his kayak June 6 at Transfer Beach

This weekend, a world-renown American adventurer will set out on a 3,000-nautical-mile solo, unassisted kayak expedition from San Francisco to Maui.

But before Wave Vidmar began his journey, he came to Ladysmith for a very meaningful ceremony.

Vidmar and his kayak — a Passat G3 designed and made by Seaward Kayaks in Chemainus and modified specifically for this expedition — were blessed by members of the Stz’uminus First Nation during a ceremony June 6 at Transfer Beach.

“Today is the beginning of a great journey, an individual who has chosen to challenge the great elements of the Pacific Ocean,” said Willie Seymour. “To prepare for something like this is momentous. It’s not just seeing him off; it’s the fact that we christen him in a sense, that our spirits travel with him. His success becomes our success, and we wish Wave the best on his journey. In a respect, he’s travelling the ancient highways of my ancestors.”

It meant a lot to Vidmar to be blessed by the Stz’uminus people.

“I wanted the First Nations people involved because the boat was designed and made from this area, and I wanted that spirit in my boat,” he said. “I feel connected to everything in life — every rock, tree, plant, the water — and I wanted that spirit in my boat to travel with me. Words won’t ever be able to express the depth and meaning behind [the ceremony] for me, as well as I think some of the others that were involved. During the ceremony, I was tearing up, and I felt waves of chills going over my body. I’ve become a part of another people, and they in turn of me. I feel really fortunate.”

Vidmar’s kayak is an award-winning double kayak made by Seaward Kayaks in Chemainus that has been reinforced with Kevlar and carbon fibre.

“For Wave, it was very important to him to use a stock model,” said Nick Horscroft, director of communications for Seaward. “We took that boat and made modifications particularly relevant to what Wave will encounter.”

The bottom of Vidmar’s kayak was been painted with the markings of a lion fish and a pilot fish to scare away sharks, and Vidmar has painted “Dear shark, if you can read this, you’re too close.”

A decal of an Orca, designed by Coast Salish artist Luke Marston, was applied to the bow of Vidmar’s kayak following the blessing ceremony.

Vidmar lives in Georgia, and he has been preparing for this expedition for a year and a half.

“It first started out as a personal challenge,” he said. “My other expeditions have been quite expensive … and this is one actually is very inexpensive and wouldn’t take that much time.”

There is also the potential for Vidmar to do research while he’s out on the water. He will be wearing a body monitor that measures 20 different functions, collecting data through G-force sensors mounted on the boat and collecting water samples.

“I try to make my expeditions as beneficial to other people as possible,” he said. “It’s not just about one person in the water.”

Vidmar expects to be on the water for 45 to 65 days, although he is ready to spend up to 80 days on the water — and says he could stretch that by fishing more. He will be alone without support and without extra supplies being brought in.

Vidmar will depart this weekend from San Francisco Bay. He plans to leave either June 16 — his birthday — or June 17.

Vidmar says this kind of open-ocean crossing is very rare. This year is the 25th anniversary of Ed Gillette’s expedition. Gillette was the first person to kayak from Monterey Bay in San Francisco to Maui. It took him 63 days, and he was eating toothpaste the last four days because he’d run out of food.

“It [my journey] is kind of a homage to his expedition,” said Vidmar.

Vidmar is no stranger to solo expeditions. He skied and swam from Siberia to the geographic North Pole in 2004, and he has 35 years of sailing experience.

Anyone interested in following Vidmar’s expedition can view live tracking, reports and pictures on Seaward’s website and on Vidmar’s website.