Bob Purdy wrapped up 2015 the same way he began it, standing on his paddleboard looking out over the ocean.
On Dec. 31, Purdy put his paddleboard in the waves off MacKenzie Beach to mark his 1,826th consecutive day of stand up paddleboarding, a streak he kicked off in an effort to motivate social, economic and environmental changes.
“I think we can all agree that we can do better in all of those areas but everybody resonates differently. For me it happens to be the environment for someone else it might be a social issue,” Purdy told the Westerly News.
“You can look out your back window virtually anywhere on the planet and see things that need to be changed…One of the reasons we crafted that message as broad as it is was so that people can pick things that resonate with them.”
Purdy, 62, is the founder of Paddle for the Planet and the focus of 2014 award-winning documentary ‘The Paddler.’
“I still remember vividly my very first paddle. I managed to break my nose in the surf at Coho Beach back in 2007,” he said.
“In spite of that, I decided right then and there that I was going to share this sport with as many people as possible and at that time it was relatively new; not many people knew about it.”
After selling his paddle shop in 2010, Purdy was searching for a way to stay connected to the sport and he came up with an idea to continue his passion while promoting behavioural change.
“I was sitting around talking with the new owner and wondering how I was going to stay connected to the industry because I didn’t want to drop out of sight and I jokingly said ‘Well why don’t I paddle for 1,000 days and make it count for something,’” he said.
“We both had a great laugh about that and I went home and started thinking about it and I thought, ‘You know, I can probably do this.”
Six months later, on Jan 1, 2011, Purdy embarked on his goal.
“My original goal was 1,000 days and when I hit 1,000 I didn’t reset,” he said.
“I’ll keep going until my health declines to the point that I’m not able to go or until we actually change the way we live on the planet, whichever comes first.”
He encourages people to avoid getting stuck on big issues when thinking about change.
“There’s so many challenges and some of them are so huge and so big we kind of get stuck… you don’t have to do the big things just take a small step and start,” he said.
“Change has this internal mechanism to it where the more things you change the more you start looking for other things to change and the more you start changing the more your circle starts to see a change and we get this ripple effect going.”
He said paddleboarding is uniquely conducive to his message.
“We as a species, I think, have lost our connection to the natural world and with stand up paddle it just brings you right back there,” he said.
“You get a chance to leave the phone and the computer and all that stuff behind and you immerse yourself in that natural world…When you’re connected to nature you’ll take care of it and if we can get that message across that’s going to be a huge help.”
Purdy moved from his longtime Kelowna home to Tofino in August after being a frequent visitor to the area since the 1970’s.
“There’s something about this West Coast, just the raw wild nature of it that’s in your face all day everyday and we just absolutely love it here.”
It was a shivery minus 4C when Purdy hit the waves on Dec. 31 but he didn’t waver in the cold waves.
“I have literally walked over ice to get to open water to paddle so as chilly as it is here, and it’s a different kind of cold, I’ve definitely paddled in a lot colder,” he said.
West Coasters can experience ‘The Paddler’ at a Jan. 20 screening being held at the Clayoquot Community Theatre as a fundraiser for local environmental group Clayoquot Action’s upcoming wild salmon delegation to Norway.
“I think it’s an important trip and it really highlights the rights of the natural world compared to what we’ve created,” Purdy said.