Bryan Smith: Paddling Visionary

Photo courtesy Reelwaterproductions.com
Photo courtesy Reelwaterproductions.com

Outdoor Research Ambassador Bryan Smith is director of the acclaimed Eastern Horizons and other adventure- and environment-focused paddling films with Reel Water Productions. His outdoor savvy and artistic eye have landed him awards for documentary film production. He and his colleagues at Reel Water tell the stories of adventurous people and places many other filmmakers wouldn’t dare to tackle.

1. How did you get started in your sport?

I started out guiding in the San Juan Islands. Once I had paddled around every island, I started looking to whitewater for more action. From there, I never looked back, but I also never left my roots in sea kayaking.

2. What keeps you paddling?


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Exploration. Seeing new places is the motivation deep down. For sure, the feeling of floating also draws me back. It doesn’t mater if it is a canoe, sea kayak or whitewater boat, the feeling of floating and pulling a blade through the water is unlike any other sport.

3. What is your typical day/week schedule?


My typical week these days revolves around a lot of filming. On any given week, I’m on an airplane racking up miles. This year alone, I flew close to 200,000 miles. When I’m home, I’m dedicated to spending as much time as I possibly can with my family. So my week could easily involve flying to Europe to film for three days, flying back to Vancouver, going skiing for a day or two with my son and wife, and then starting the whole circuit over again.

4. Finish this sentence. In high school I …

quit the downhill ski team to join the debate team.

5. Any advice to young people getting started in your sport?

Paddle as many disciplines as possible. Sea kayak, whitewater, canoe. The more diverse the craft, the more rounded your skills.

6. Favourite place on the planet?

Kamchatka, Peru, the Grand Canyon, my backyard in Squamish, B.C.

7. What are you looking forward to this year?

Telling more and more stories.

8. What’s your favorite piece of OR gear?


StormTracker gloves. Having fingers that can operate cameras in the cold is essential for me, and these are the only gloves I’ve ever found that keep me going.

9. Where do you live now, and why? 


Squamish, B.C. I can paddle, ski, and bike in the same day if I want.

More on Outdoor Research’s ambassadors here. And check this timelapse video of the Reel Water crew preparing for their Kamchatka expedition:

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