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Interview With Phoxx Ekcs Part 3: "No Limits, No Regrets"

Interview with Phoxx Ekcs Part 3: "No Limits, No Regrets" from Baby Seal Films on Vimeo.

If each part of this four-part interview can be said to have its own flavor, then this part is bitter. Phoxx talks about some of the most difficult physical and psychological challenges during the trip. For instance, while hiking along the North Coast Trail to Cape Scott Phoxx developed a serious infection in both feet. His feet and ankles had swollen up “like a pregnant woman’s."  You couldn’t tell the difference between his calves and ankles. He had also had sprained toes and huge bruises on his shoulders from the backpack he had been carrying. During the 5 day hike he only ate a handful of salal berries and drank less than 3 liters of water. On day 20 some of the guys at the Cape Scott Light Station told him he needed to stop his trip, leave his kayak behind and hike to Holberg and get a ride to Port Hardy. They even started to talk about calling the Coast Guard to rescue him.

I asked Phoxx recently about his choice of brain tanned buckskins for clothing, Could he have chosen more appropriate clothing for the rain? He responded that he could have definitely stayed more comfortable by simply not moving around. He could have stayed warm, dry and eaten well every day by staying on a good foraging beach and sitting in his shelter during bad weather. But that wasn’t what his trip was about. It was more important for him to reach his goal of getting to Cape Scott rather than be comfortable.

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The Phoxx Ekcs Interview Part 2: The North Coast Trail

Interview with Phoxx Ekcs Part 2: The North Coast Trail from Baby Seal Films on Vimeo.

I’ve received some scathing criticism of Phoxx and his trip. A sample of the responses so far:

“…This made me think he is more of a fool than anything. I just don't see anything at all to be envied, admired, advertised, respected, emulated or promoted...”

“…It would not have taken very much for him to have died, and then we all would be discussing his "adventure" here in much harsher and unforgiving terms. But he didn't die thank goodness. So instead perhaps the words foolhardy or immature can be used.”

“… isn't the Pacific Northwest about the easiest test for primitive living outside of the tropics? I want to see him spend July in Death Valley with an SOF. Or Detroit.”

“…the whole "expert" having a near-fatal hypothermia experience, and the ill-conceived leather-clothing in a damp environment (where the locals historically wore water-resistant cedar-bark clothing), and the idea of keeping some vague "ancient techniques" alive kind of shoots it all down for me.”

“What is exceptional about doing everything so wrong on purpose that you nearly die 14 ways in 28 days? …this is not good publicity for SOF kayaking.”

“If Mr. Phoxx would have skated through his trip in saftety and comfort, now THAT would have been impressive. As it is he comes across as an amateur in so many ways. I hope for his sake and others that he has the attitude of a student and not a teacher.”

“Unfortunately for Phoxx, you have capture him accurately, from the choice of name to the choice in gear. I feel that, "Only after you know the rules can you break them". What he did was put the reputation of our sport at risk …”

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People accuse Phoxx of breaking all the rules of sea kayaking safety and taking unnecessary risks, and almost dying of hypothermia because of it. (For the record, Phoxx’s near death experiences with hypothermia occurred while hiking on the trail and not from paddling.) They responded negatively to his inauthentic hodgepodge of pre−European Contact technologies that were not native to the Pacific Northwest, specifically, his skin−on−frame kayak and leather clothing. The leather clothing was a particularly poor choice because it was ineffective protection against the rain. The most bizarre accusation of all is that Phoxx did the trip to make a profit by promoting himself and his story. Without even seeing the whole interview, people expressed their complete lack of interest in hearing about a rank amateur blundering his way through the wilderness and almost dying from his foolishness.

This kind of response surprised me, although it really shouldn’t have. It was certainly a crazy-sounding idea to begin with, with significant risks involved. People had been telling Phoxx from the beginning not to do it. The lighthouse keepers he met at Cape Scott had told him it was unsafe to continue, and that he needed stop immediately. They even threatened to call the Coast Guard on him. (More on that in Part 3.)

What I really didn't expect was that these comments would come from the traditional kayaking community, which I thought might be a little more welcoming to a trip that demonstrated how skin−on frame kayaks could be used for serious expedition kayaking. Some were even concerned that it would reflect poorly on the skin−on−frame community and put the reputation of traditional kayaking at risk.

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What was Phoxx’s attitude toward breaking all the rules? Here is what he said at the cafe, when I asked him about his decision not to wear a life jacket or a wetsuit:

“Where is my confidence? If I don’t have confidence without a life jacket or a wet suit I probably shouldn’t be on the water. If I think that I’m going to fall in the water I probably shouldn’t be on the water. Granted, there are things that happen… but you deserve what’s coming to you. If you get on the water on a bad day, that’s your choice. I never put myself in a position where I was in a terrible position except the last few days paddling.”

I do not believe Phoxx was at all ignorant at all of the risks, or of the limit of his abilities, or of what safety rules he was breaking.

For primitive humans, discomfort, illness and death were always present. In our modern lives, we don’t expect to die eating contaminated food or water, being attacked by bears or wolves, falling off a cliff, drowning, starving or freezing to death. One may argue about the authenticity of the mix of modern and primitive technologies used on this trip, but I think exposing oneself to significant risks is an essential part of the primitive living experience.

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