I'm Tom Stewart, avid paddler and washed up instructor turned professional gear hoarder. I also have the great pleasure of working with and attempting to manage a fantastic group of hooligans at Aquabatics.
I grew up on the Bay of Quinte in Ontario, but have now spent over half of my life in western Canada calling Calgary home.
My boss is cooler then your boss.....just sayin'
3. When did you start paddling?
The earliest memories would have been in the family canoe on Limerick Lake, but I didn't become fully enamored with paddling until later in life. I always wanted to paddle whitewater but an early attempt on the Ottawa River set that back a bit. It wouldn't be until I left Ontario before I truly became a paddler.
4. How did you get involved with Aquabatics?
After a few failed applications, Simon finally took me on as a part time Instructor and shop staff. At the time I was fully motivated to instruct full time, but as it turns out, I was far better suited for the shop than on the water :)
5. What’s the best thing about Aquabatics?
Aquabatics has seen some tremendous changes and growth during my time with the business and during that time I've been able to grow along with it. Aquabatics has become synonymous with my life, and I couldn't ask for a better business to be sharing the adventure with.
This is river surfing, yes those are boulders.
6. If you could build the perfect watercraft what would it look like?
The problem with working at a shop like Aquabatics is you end up getting into far too many watersports. Where in the past I would have just been able to say the Jackson Antix 2.0 pretty much covers everything I want in a whitewater boat, now I would need something that can also incorporate a river surf board, that tracks well on flatwater, and hold enough gear for a weekend camp. I'm pretty sure Corran Addison could dream something up for me!
7. You have access to almost any kayak you would want to try. If you could only pick one boat to paddle for the rest of eternity what would it be and why?
I really hope I never encounter a scenario in life where that would be the case, but right now it would be the Jackson Antix 2.0. In fact I'm already considering clearing out my creekboat and playboat and just paddling an Antix in 2021. For me, as someone who has spent 80% of my time paddling in playboats, that boat just feels familiar and like it can do everything I would ask of it.
8. What's the longest commute you have made for a weekend of paddling?
From Kamloops, I recall a trip to the Olympic Peninsula where we got skunked for water so we drove out to the Skykomish, then back to the Chilliwack, then Thompson River. Maybe it was 3 days, but all I recall was we ended up with a very poor driving to paddling ratio.
9. Where is your favorite place to paddle, well one your comfortable sharing with the world anyway?
The Ottawa River will always be a place I make regular paddling pilgrimages, and if I were still paddling challenging rivers I would say the Squamish area is at the top of my list. However for right now I'm most looking forward to a return to the Slave in NWT.
10. How are you pushing yourself on the water?
Maybe this should be reworded to "How are you pushing yourself to get on the water?" For the last few years with injuries, work, and other life priorities it's been a battle to get days on that water, but learning new things like river surfing, and making sure I try out the newest gear has kept me going. Hopefully 2021 will be my return to regular days on the water.
11. What’s your biggest waterfall drop to date?
I think it would be "Leap of Faith" on the elk, but Johnson Canyon is by far my favorite "waterfall run". Hopefully Parks Canada can work with the AWA to reopens river access for kayakers in the near future!
Tom, his amazing Wife, and two of the best dogs ever
12. What is your craziest on water experience?
Maybe I'm lucky or just completely unaware of my surroundings, but nothing too crazy comes to mind. I thought I had a client who was having a heart attack or other respiratory issue once, but it was just shock after a bad swim. Mainly just things that in hindsight could have gone another way but luckily worked out at the time. If you want some good river stories check out Simon's answers to this question.
13. Do you do any type of winter training?
hmmm ... that's probably a good idea...
14. What is your dream run or trip?
I think I've put it off for too long now, but a California Sierra's trip has always been at the top of my bucket list.
15. What is the coolest thing you’ve seen while paddling?
I'm pretty much always astounded by the amazing places you can get to in a kayak that would otherwise be totally inaccessible. Anytime I'm on a new river I'm amazed at how the forces of moving water can change and modify the landscape in such incredible ways.
16. What’s the best advice you would give to someone brand new to paddling?
Take a lesson and keep it basic. My first experience in a whitewater boat was on a 4 day whitewater course, but the wrong one. I was pretty much thrown into a boat that was way too big for me (most were at the time and age of 12), told to just keep paddling, and my very first ripple of whitewater was a large class 3 rapid with a blind horizon line and no scouting ahead of time. The result was I would not paddle whitewater again until age 18. I believe taking a course is the best way to get into paddling, but underwhelm yourself in terms of difficulty so you can be overwhelmed with knowledge and improvement.
17. If you could go paddling with anyone in the world past or present who would it be?
How about the future? We've seen a resurgence of amazing young paddlers get into the sport in recent years and I'm so stoked to see how far these young rippers progress in 3-5 years time.
18. Is there anything you would change about the sport?
Not about the sport, but I think there are a few battles to be fought regarding river access that are creeping into the Canadian paddling scene over the last few years.
19. If you had to pick an adult beverage to best describe you what would it be and why?
You stole mine and gave it to Simon so it's up to you again :)
(Andy here, part of me wanted to say Tom is a growler of pilsner, both hip and adventurous, but in reality he's a whiskey neat, looks good, sounds good, and is straight to the point)
321...launch.. Tom getting some hangtime
20. Is there anything I missed you wanted to add?
Absolutely not, writing about myself is one of the most uncomfortable things I've ever done, thanks Andy! :)
Pat yourself on the back for making it this far, these 20 questions blogs have been blast to get together, Tom's was no exception.
Don't forget to bring your obscure gear questions up with Tom, next time your in the shop!!
written by Andrew W
Answered by Tom S.