Guayaki Yerba Mate
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The road-less, native village of Kyuquot out on the remote outer coast of British Columbia has a small general store. Occasionally it’s open. “Not today though,” a kid with a fishing pole shouted down from the Government Dock, towering over our heads. “It’s Thursday, eh.” What were we thinking…eh? Thursday. Of course.

Joe and I had everything we needed for three weeks of self-supported kayaking; it was crammed in the hulls of our boats, in the Pelicases strapped behind our seats or swimming in the water around us… everything but the damned honey!

Yerba Mate is great for kayaking, particularly touring or expeditions. A bunch of us from the San Juan Islands like to paddle the northwest coast of BC. We often go in big, tribal-like groups, other times with a partner, sometimes alone. We love this wild seacoast that civilization hasn’t caught up with yet and we love the challenge of getting there under our own power in our own small boats. We look forward to an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet, high pressure and hot sand and even the great gales and storms of September, and we try and spend several weeks or more here each year.

The open coast is an exciting paddling venue and the adrenals get a work out. One of the neat things about mate is the subtlety of effect. If we pop a strong cup of joe on the beach before busting out through the surf we may get more jacked than we bargained for. While a cup of yerba mate leaves us steady in the saddle and ready to throwdown with whatever might come along. The NorPac seacoast is intensely vibrant and the trick to grooving is more about attuning with that vibrancy than jacking ourselves up against it. Shit floats is totally the name of the game but one must continually remind oneself of the fact.

The power in the surf zone is beyond imagination; there is a LOT of crashing going on, a lot of surging, whooshing, rolling and breaking and when I first ventured here I had to get over the impression that the big waves that boomed over the submerged rocks around me weren’t really chasing me around. It sounds silly but the impression held me by the short hairs until I could see clearly. I had anthropomorphized them subconsciously into malevolent entities when in reality they were duly responding to the laws of hydrology. When the sea shallows enough it breaks. It occurred to me one day that paddling here was like being in the same room with a sleep walking giant. It had no idea I was here and my job was to say out from underfoot!

Again mate leaves us calm enough to intentionally reprogram old perspectives. It just doesn’t torque the adrenals the way the beans do, but buoys us instead in a pleasant, self confident state. In the course of paddling a six hour day, a lot of stuff can happen. A few too many stretchy situations can tax the nerves and bring on early fatigue. I’ve always felt that the fear we might experience sitting in a very small boat on a very large ocean is a coin with two sides. Terror and joy. When that power is stirred up a little it can freak you out, when in reality you’re fine. A simple flip of the coin can work wonders. Sometimes the coffee packs too much of a jolt to make those intentional, subtle morphs to our perspective, not to mention those frequent, level-headed assessment of risks required in the course of a day. Sea kayaking, ocean kayaking in any case, has a transformative element about it. Bonking is a very poor option out here. Better to maintain a steady energetic state and roll with the swell and wave, pacing yourself and synching with the great, pulsing presence of the sea, or the big pond, as I think of it.

Drinking mate while driving may be illegal in Uruguay but it’s the ticket here. I keep a bottle or bladder filled with tea in the cockpit with me. That with a couple of Clif Bars and I’m good for the day. I’ve been on expeditions with guys who bring their gourds and bombillas along, nice for the beach but I can’t see it in the boat.

As for that honey, it had been hard to let it go. A big spoonful of it along with a big sluice of whitener (even the powdered stuff in a pinch) is how I like it. Straight up’s good too, hot or cold, but a big cup of what looks like glacial runoff but tastes more like Mother’s Milk (with a dab of honey on the nipple), was how I liked to roll. When I’m not in the field, I’m at home in the San Juans where myself and my wife Pamela and our friends live alternatively on the only hill on the island where we draw close to the land and support organic, sustainable and Fair Market enterprises. Kudos to Guayaki’s effort to bring a product like this ashore and kudos to the business model they’ve chosen to effect that. And a final thanks to the guys for their support of the Coastal Team Challenge in 2009.

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About Rob

Rob is a free-lance adventure journalist who lives in the San Juan Islands with his stone soup artist wife, Pamela.