Off the central coast of B.C., on the small island community of Bella Bella, local First Nations secondary school students are crafting vessels to explore the inlets and waterways of their territory. Their ancestors have done so for generations in canoes, but these youths are paddling with a contemporary twist — instead of sitting in canoes they are standing up on paddleboards.
"When I learned about (these kids) I was totally sold on the project," says Whistler-based filmmaker Anthony Bonello.
"The whole Enbridge thing is the cause, but the story that makes it compelling, unique and refreshing is the adventure tied with these kids. What they're doing is just stunning, they're re-connecting with their culture and their territory in a totally new way."
The boards have been constructed with local cedar as part of the Bella Bella community school's wood shop class, with students incorporating their own artistic designs. Bear paw prints, representing these youths' ancestral connection to the Great Bear Rainforest, adorn the natural wood grain of the cedar. Political statements such as "Stand up to Enbridge," and "Stand up for Great Bear" are also printed on the boards — the irony of an upright paddle position and a firm opposition to the Northern Gateway Project being the students' full intention.
Enbridge's Northern Gateway Project is a proposal to build twin pipelines across northern B.C. — the eastbound pipeline importing natural gas condensate from Alberta, and the westbound pipeline, which is to end at Kitimat, exporting crude oil to the coast where it will be eventually transported to Asian market by oil tankers.
The film project that Bonello has undertaken is called "STAND: a SUP adventure through the Great Bear Rainforest," and it will document the journey of Squamish based SUP guide Norman Hann as he paddles along the coast of Haida Gwaii, one of the proposed routes of the supertankers sailing from the port of Kitimat. Hann has been working as a guide, fisherman and educator in the Great Bear Rainforest for 12 years and in 2010 paddled the 400-kilometre tanker route from Kitimat to Bella Bella.
Bonello and Hann have also partnered with photographer and filmmaker Nicolas Teichrob, a Sunshine Coast local who has spent most of his life on the West Coast of B.C.
He joined Bonello on the first trip to the Great Bear Rainforest in November 2011 to shoot the STAND trailer, a two and a half minute teaser filmed over five days. The trailer has since logged over 13,500 views on Vimeo.
"People don't have any vision for what you're going to do unless you can show it to them," says Bonello by way of explaining the trailer.
"We needed to shoot something, anything that we could take to (potential) sponsors to give them a sense of what we were going to do."
Quiksilver Foundation (the philanthropic arm of the sporting goods giant) has stepped in as the presenting sponsor. Support also came locally after James Retty, owner of The Escape Route, saw the trailer at the Mountain Culture Variety Show during the World Ski and Snowboard Festival.
"I'd been looking for a solid environmental cause for the business for a while," says Retty.
"As a specialty outdoor shop we rely on nature for people to get out and do things. There's a little more onus on us to (support this)."
The project also managed to secure a boat to film from through one of Retty's sailing friends, Nigel Praine who has agreed to provide his 40-foot Valiant yacht Soul Haven for the expedition.
"The boat is everything," says Bonello.
"(With it) we have security, we have a platform to film from and we have a production base where we can charge and stay dry."
After months of preparation and planning the team will depart from Old Masset on the northern tip of Haida Gwaii on June 5. Over nine days (the estimate given fair weather) Hann will paddle along the Hecate Strait down to Rose Harbour (over 350km) as the team aboard Soul Haven gathers footage of the natural and cultural beauty of the Great Bear Rainforest.
The STAND Film project will be an adventure sport documentary wrapped in the political cause of the Northern Gateway Pipeline, showing the world what is at stake.
"(We want to) encourage people to get outside and enjoy the nature around them, because if you enjoy nature you'll care for it," says Teichrob.
"If you care for it then you'll be aware of what's happening in your own backyard."