STEEL & SNORKEL – river snorkelling on Vancouver Island

by Samantha Bacchus McLeod

This is a beautiful video, depicted by Pavel Francev, of our very own Chris Walling, better known as Steel and Snorkel. The video showcases a deep respect and love for the forest and the rivers on Vancouver Island.

The music – Just a Breath by Novva and All of Us by Rest Settle – took the story to a whole new level with its ebbing and flowing of the nature scenes.

Chris Walling’s, better known as Steel and Snorkel, first snorkelling adventure was at the age of 14, snorkelling in the Vedder River in Abbotsford, with his dad. They were looking for lures at the bottom of the river, but while his dad sought lures, Chris was lured in by the beauty of the underwater world, specifically by the fish of the river.

“River snorkelling is dynamic, there is no better word to describe it,” said Chris.

River snorkelling is always about changing and moving. Like the rivers that never stand still, the fish are always on the go, and a snorkeler must follow. The beauty of what lies below is transcendental. Weird wonders lay around every rock.

The journey for Chris, as he documents stories for Steel and Snorkel, starts with a trek through the rainforest. The quiet stillness of moss covered trees, the unique silence of a place teeming with unseen life. Vancouver Island, located at the westernmost part of Canada in British Columbia, is home to some of the most spectacular temperate rainforests and awe-inspiring ecosystems. The towering coastal temperate rainforests of Vancouver Island are globally rare, covering less than 1% of the earth’s surface. Sadly, their future remains uncertain.

For now, this is Chris’s haven, his place in the world as he treks through the forest on his way to document the life of the lesser-known-wild in the rivers of Vancouver Island, British Colombia.

From the thousands of images he captures – as much as 4000 per trip – we will be lucky enough to view 3 or 4 on Steel and Snorkel social media sites.

“Holding a fresh caught fish, exhausted from fighting its capture is far different from seeing a fish in its element alive and well,” said Chris.

How does the fish flow? According to Steel and Snorkel, The most difficult fish to capture an image of is a fresh run Chinook salmon.

But when he tells the story of steelheads it is a profound and funny insight into his in-depth knowledge of the river’s inhabitants.

According to Chris, Steelhead are predictable and territorial, they will actually defend their piece of the rock as you approach them. They will flare their fins and flex their pectorals, and the really aggressive ones will go after the GoPro. It is like the flashing red light on the GoPro is an invitation for them to swim up and smack it for its intrusion of their privacy.

When it comes to suiting up for the cold swims, Steel and Snorkel has got it down to a science. A seven-millimetre wetsuit is the best if one plans on snorkelling the West Coast rivers year-round.

Chris uses his wading boots instead of flippers because he spends more time walking the river bottom than actually snorkelling.

Don’t get caught out in the cold naked. Carry a knife, because you are out in the wild and cold, all alone on most occasions. Something may or may not come up but one should be prepared, with a good belt knife. Case in point? Once he had to cut his boot away from an underwater boulder. Trapped laces and all, he had no choice but to cut his way out of the situation.

And finally good entry level mask works just fine.

This latest Steel and Snorkel edition is an absolutely enjoyable video journey of the oft-unseen nature life on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Well done, Pavel Francev and Chris Walling!

The video, by Pavel Francev, is well done, the colours of the forest and the river seem as one, there is a gentleness to the whole adventure of river snorkelling. And of course, the underwater footage by Steel and Snorkel and Pavel Francev is just too beautiful for words to describe. So go ahead sit back and enjoy the video right here.

In the mood for more? Then you will love this video, The women of the Arousa Sea too.

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