Paula Johanson, Commando Kayaker

Location: Vancouver Island, BC

  • Models paddled: Lagoon1, All AdvancedFrame Models, StraitEdge2, DragonFly, and AirFusion Kayak.
  • Water that she paddles: Lakes, Coastal/Ocean, Bays and Estuaries, Slow moving rivers.
  • What she uses her yaks for: Travel, Urban Kayaking, Daily Paddling.
Paula learned kayaking and canoeing as a teenager, and after a sudden hearing loss took her sense of balance, she returned to paddling for fitness and vestibular improvement. Finding a calming oasis of nature in cities is a bonus! Whether she’s at home on Vancouver Island, BC or travelling in Canada to promote her writing, her AE kayaks make it possible for this stocky little woman to haul her own gear so she can paddle in harbours, lakes, and rivers. Though she doesn’t own a car or a couch, her “Affordable Fleet” of kayaks includes three AE inflatables as well as a Necky Eliza sea kayak and an old Pamlico to loan to beginners. “With the finely-honed body of a freelance writer, I turn heads as I bring my AE kayaks on buses, trains, and airplanes,” she says. “…but it’s the kayaks that get all the attention.”

Favorite AE Story:
A gray whale came by, while I was out in the bay where I usually paddle. The bay is part of the urban shoreline of Victoria, BC. I’ve been here at every level of tide and most kinds of weather in my little kayak. Because I know these rocks so well, I was able to find a snug place to wait and watch as the whale came near. And it did come by, and it was MUCH closer than I would ever have gone to it out in open water. It was calm and going about its own business, grazing on the sea bottom as it went back and forth around a rocky islet.

If I’d been out in my hard-shell kayak, I’d have been no closer than a hundred yards or metres away or more. That’s the law for how close a boat is supposed to approach a whale. In this case, while the whale was over a hundred metres away on one side of the rocky islet, I went to shore on the other side and surrounded my short, tough little kayak on all sides and underneath with rocks. No way a gray whale was going to want to climb onto rocks in this piece of space! Then I waited, and the whale came back around the island, grazing slowly and leisurely.

The whale made at least two more passes, so it wasn’t alarmed by my yellow kayak sitting on the wet rocky shore. I was able to retreat quickly and quietly while the whale was on the far side of the islet, so that worked out as well.

I could never have done this if I’d been in any other boat. I am in awe of my kayak’s outer hull, tough and flexible enough to shuffle my butt onto a barnacled rock shelf out of the whale’s way. I would never have tried this without being so familiar with how the boat handles, and familiar with these rocks from paddling here over and over again as an Urban Commando Kayaker in this convenient kayak.

Paula is a regular contributing writer on the Kayak Yak blog at:

Photo Credit: John W. Herbert