Paddle Out- The Story Behind the Ben Haggar's Photo
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Paddle Out- The Story Behind the Photo


This was one of the first photos I took with a new (new to me) Aquatech water housing for my DSLR.  As with most early morning starts on remote stretches of Vancouver Island, it was damp, cold, and grey. (my name is Ben Haggar)

James Sayers paddling out to a secret surf spot - Photo: Ben Haggar
James Sayers paddling out to a secret surf spot- Photo: Ben Haggar

Getting In

James grabbed his board and I wrestled with a board, fins, and my new underwater rig. 

From our camp, the hike is roughly 1km over slippery polished granite boulders covered with long strands of bull kelp, over giant logs, up a cliff, across a muddy path, and down another steep embankment. 

At low tide, it is possible to skirt the cliff and muddy path section, along the shoreline, but with a large swell and the tide being high, we decide to scale the faded yellow rope attached to a small Alder atop the cliff. 

I had to make the trip twice with all my gear and was getting pretty warm by the end of the second trip in my 5mm wetsuit. 

The path along the headland feels esoteric with giant ferns and impossibly tall spruce and cedars. 

On this coast, there is a word for the especially thick, brown, rich, sticky mud found virtually everywhere.  Shiggy.  We had our share of shiggy and tried to stick to the roots and strategically placed logs, but the legs of our wetsuits emerged from the forest more brown than black. 

The Secret Spot BEN HAGGAR

This surf spot is remote from our already remote campsite, but as the population of surfers along this stretch of Southern Vancouver Island increases at an exponential rate, secrets like this are no longer secret. 

Canadians by nature like to share and have a very fragile conscience, so it is hard for a lot of people to keep a spot to themselves. 

Also, we are an adventurous bunch and will search out rumours of fabled right–hand points and reefs such as these.  Hence, our early morning departure. 

Out in the Waves with Ben Haggar

Sets rolled in, groomed by a thick bed of bull kelp playing hide and seek as the waves pass over the reef, pulling at their tentacled anchors.  I decide to swim and snap a few photos before catching any waves myself and with my new toy. 

I was like a border collie at a baseball game, shooting everything from every angle. 

As the sun neared the horizon, a beautiful soft pink hue came across the low clouds and I managed to follow James as he paddled back out to catch another wave and snapped a few over/under shots of him. 

As luck would have it, he was the perfect distance from the camera as in my excitement, I forgot to switch my lens from manual focus, and my focal plane was very narrow due to the low light and settings I chose. 

Alone in the Kelp

After watching James catch a few really nice waves, I had to ditch the camera and get some myself. 

We had a great session all to ourselves as the dropping tide exposed boulders and forced us deeper into the kelp garden. 

Sitting alone in the middle of a kelp forest can be a little unnerving, especially in the darkness of dusk and predawn.  As the large heads resurface from under a wave with an eerie gurgling sound.

It’s like sea monsters sneaking up on their unsuspecting victim from the depths, which kind of makes you feel like a 7-year-old girl screeching when her foot grazes a blade of seaweed. 

Never the less, we surfed until we had our fill and another group of surfers emerged from the greenery of the headland. 


Ben Haggar

The author Ben Haggar

Ben is a Squamish based photographer and writer. Using surfing and mountain biking as catalysts, he aims to meld action sports with experiential travel in remote and wonderful locations around the globe. Ben also works as an Assistant Expedition Leader planning and executing expeditions in the Polar regions, but misses BC's alchemy of hops and water when away. He is an ambassador for On-Sight Equipment. Follow him on Instagram @benhaggarphoto
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