Skateboards and canoe paddles are both largely made from wood. The material partnership seems to go hand in hand, except that it doesn’t. When you think canoe tripping you think serene reflections in glass calm waters, baking bannock over an open fire— you don’t think about concrete bowls, handrails and ollies.
Andrew Szeto is an Ottawa, Ontario resident with an affinity for all things stoke and his eye-catching paddles have stirred nothing less in the world of social media. Building two paddles week, each using four to five skateboards per paddle to get the colors just right, Szeto admits the paddlers are certainly a labor of love.
Paddles aren’t the only thing Szeto has crafted with recycled skateboards. Other items include: levitating planters, coffee tampers, stools and dutchmen wood joints in dining tables. Though he admits, “Once I made a paddle I was hooked.”
“I think there’s definitely a common joy of the outdoors and exploring new areas and challenging yourself with new, difficult and interesting terrain,” proposes Szeto, when asked how he related skateboarding to canoeing.
As a day job, Szeto is the multimedia officer for the Canadian Coast Guard, creating engaging social and online content. A busy body no doubt, Szeto also happens to be a freelance videographer and photographer, with published work in skateboarding magazines all over North America and the founder of Maru The Circle Brand, a design and goods company based in Ottawa.
The paddles are unique and delightful, but there’s more to the feathery templates than meets the eye. Szeto’s paddles start at $300 a piece, but for every one Szeto sells, he gives 10 percent to a not-for-profit organization, For Pivot’s Sake.
For Pivot’s Sake provides programming and skateboards to underserved communities in the Ottawa area as well as Iqaluit, Nunavut. Skateboarders are encouraged to bring their used boards to For Pivot’s Sake to be donated to children instead of throwing them out. They also accept broken boards, which in turn are given to Szeto to make new paddles.
Having provided two photography workshops through For Pivot’s Sake, Szeto says, “It’s a lot of fun working with the kids, and hopefully making an impact.”
Through a partnership with Canadian North Airlines, and the city of Iqaluit, Szeto along with co-director of For Pivot’s Sake, Aaron Cayer and other skateboarders travelled to Iqaluit. Szeto taught the youth how to capture skateboarding photography and videography, donating lenses the youth could use on their phones. Along with used equipment, For Pivot’s Sake also donated brand new blank skateboards so the kids could design their own board art.
Although Szeto hasn’t really marketed his paddles, he has received a lot of inquiries on social media from everyday people to canoe manufacturers like Nova Craft Canoe. Before he knew it, Szeto was collaborating with Nova Craft on his very own custom-built Prospector 16’.
Due to Szeto’s substantial following on social media, his creativity with recycled skateboard paddles and strong visual content, Nova Craft’s sales and marketing assistant, Sara Mills says, “It was a natural decision for us to reach out to him. He’s a super enthusiastic ambassador for having fun in the outdoors and that’s what we’re all about.”
The Prospector 16’ will be oxblood in color with ash trim and custom made decks by Szeto himself out of none other than recycled skateboards.
Szeto will be doing what he does best, stoking adventurers souls full of wanderlust with dreamy visual content for Nova Craft.
The plan is to take the canoe everywhere with him this summer.
“Canoes and skateboards, it’s all about being outside and having fun ways to get from point A to point B,” chuckles Szeto.
This article originally appeared in Canoeroots Early Summer 2017 issue.
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