The last time that Justine Curgenven came to speak at Deep Cove Outdoors, we had a sell out crowd for her talk on Paddling the Aleutian Islands. This talk was no different, and surprisingly, most people I talked to hadn’t seen her before, which goes to show the appeal of this formidable kayaker, adventurer and explorer.

The premise of this evening’s talk was a recap of some of the recent trips that Justine has done, including Iceland, Baja, Indonesia, the Aleutian Islands, and Vancouver Island, hence ‘Kayaking the World’. The talk was peppered with descriptions of amazing nature, such as when she was talking about paddling in Baja, Mexico from a trip in 2015 where she had a pretty close encounter with a fin whale…so close in fact she the whale came up under her boat and she was lifted from the water! The video footage from the encounter was incredible, but as usual, the rest of Justine’s tales were just as impressive!

She also talked about paddling around Kamchatka – having to fend off bears, contend with surf, and the added challenge of taking a beginner kayaker with them as demanded by the Russian authorities! You can check out a video of this trip below:

There followed a recap of her trip with Sarah Outen in the Aleutian Islands – which brought back memories of how inspiring her previous talk was. Completing a 1500 mile, never-before completed expedition, it was the stoicism and companionship of the two women that shone through in the video footage and Justine’s regaling of the stories that they shared. One of the more notable experiences again involved a close encounter with wildlife – this time a grizzly bear that came to nose around Sarah’s clothing while she showered! Much hollering ensued and they chased the bear off – definitely one to remember!

From both of these trips, and her trip to Indonesia in 2016, one of the recurring themes was the fascination that the people of the remote communities would have for the kayakers and their equipment. Coming from such a privileged world as we do, it is easy to forget that there are people in the world who don’t have access to high-tech gear; where the idea of such expeditions is the equivalent of us going to the moon. Justine referred to the sense of wonder and joy that some of the Indonesian children had with such a simple thing as flying kites on the beach made of plastic bags and fishing line, and how rare that is nowadays. I think that there are clearly things to be drawn from both sides of such interactions.

Justien Curgenven Indonesia

The part of Justine’s talk that resonated with me most was about her 32-day solo trip around Vancouver Island. Having recently completed a solo trip of my own, Justine’s description of how she felt mirrored my own feelings. The sense of accomplishment, and the knowledge that you are only reliant on your own motivation and power is incredibly empowering; despite the ups and downs that inevitably come on such a trip, its’ successful completion is a memory that is still so present that the way that it speeds my heartbeat up, it could have been yesterday. It has definitely made me want to plan a new trip!!

And that is why we come to see speakers like Justine – the inspiration to undertake our own adventures, no matter how big or small, can be inspired into reality by listening to their stories. Hearing Justine’s tales of wildlife encounters, of her interactions with local people around the world who may never have seen kayaks before, and her sense of wonder and discovery at the magnificence of nature and all its glorious wildness. I can’t wait to hear Justine speak the next time, and get inspired all over again.