For much of the past three years, it seemed as if Kelowna stand up paddler Bob Purdy’s incredible effort to paddle board every day and raise awareness about environmental issues was taking place in anonymity.
Even the 60-year-old self-described “elder in training” had his doubts that he was making a difference.
But he continued to get onto his paddle board and for over three years and counting, day in and day out, Purdy has hit the water paddling for the planet and for change.
And as the days passed into years—he has been going for almost 1,200 straight days—his project started to catch some serious momentum.
“At the end of the first year I was discouraged,” said Purdy. “I thought we were taking steps backwards. But at the end of the second year there were things that were happening…a shift and I was much more encouraged. In my daily conversations I started seeing a shift in the way people were thinking. I’m more and more encouraged. We’re starting to see more positive things happening with the environment. We have a long ways to go but I’m encouraged and that’s why it’s important for me to keep this going as long as I can.”
What Purdy continues to do is staggering. Three straight years of paddling. Every day. In wind and snow and rain and whatever conditions can throw at him. Wherever he is, he makes time to paddle. All to raise awareness for the environment and to push people to change the way they treat Mother Earth.
His movement has spread across the world. Last year there were paddle for the planet events all across North America and in places like South Korea, South America, Puerto Rico and Australia, all stemming from Purdy’s efforts.
It’s a mission that appears made for the movies. And so it will be, thanks to Kelowna film-maker Carey Missler.
When Missler heard about Purdy and his paddling feats, he included the Kelowna man in his first feature length film, 2013’s The Canadian Surfer Movie.
But that just touched the tip of the paddle board and this January, as Purdy passed three years of straight paddling, Missler was struck by inspiration.
“I was surfing in Mexico last month and I thought of this movie in the middle of the night,” said Missler, who e-mailed Purdy the next morning and began filming less than a month later. “I personally think he’s nuts right? But I like crazy people so it’s all good. He gets up every day and paddles every day. Regardless of the temperature or the time. I don’t know too many people who would do that. We want to show what he is about and what kind of stuff he is trying to work on and why people should get involved.”
Missler and Purdy have filmed a teaser for the movie (https://vimeo.com/87645567) to be called The Paddler and have a year of shoots planned this year, beginning with locations in Tofino last weekend where Missler interviewed world renowned native artist Roy Henry Vickers. There are scheduled shoots in the Great Bear Rainforest on the B.C. coast and in Florida, the scene of last year’s World Paddle for the Planet Day, where Purdy paddled for 24 hours straight.
The movie is about water and it’s importance to the world.
“We will follow Bob through the movie as we go to different places and interview people about water,” said Missler. “It’s not just going to be him paddling. We want to be able to put the spotlight on these issues but from different perspectives.”
Among the perspectives the movie-makers will be getting are from indigenous people around North America. Purdy himself says the world can learn much from First Nations groups in the way they treat the land with respect and live within their means.
“I continue to meet First nations people around the world and the attraction for me is their world view and how culturally they have been able to live off the land and respect the land and live sustainably,” he said. “Every indigenous culture I have come across has the same idea: To live sustainably. Moving forward, the way out of some of our challenges like air pollution and water issues lies in putting the environment first in our decision making and making sure we are not taking more than the planet can give.”
Purdy says every person can help change the planet from small decisions like not purchasing plastic water bottles. He says change has a ripple effect and anything people can do to help the environment will make a difference in the long haul.
“A lot of people are overwhelmed, they don’t know where to start, they feel they can’t make a difference,” said Purdy. “But I want to encourage people that whatever you do will help. Whatever it is, there is a ripple effect. When you start to change one thing internally, you start to change other things. Then your circle starts to see those changes and its a ripple effect. I’ve seen that in action. We’ve gone from zero on day one—no one knew who I was—to here we are at nearly 1,200 days and the project and the message is known world wide and that has basically been one person at a time.”
For more information on Bob Purdy and Paddle for the Planet, go to www.paddlefortheplanet.ca.
If you would like to contact Carey Missler about the film email him direct at firstname.lastname@example.org.