A very sad day for the sea kayaking community around the world. Although we locked horns on more than one occasion, Derek Hutchinson’s extraordinary book, Sea Canoeing, was my bible as a beginning sea kayaker. What he wrote, and the advice he gave, saved my ass on many occasions, but even more to the point, it influenced the entire way that I came to view sea kayaking. It not only taught me the skills I would need as an open-water paddler, it also enabled me to clearly see that sea kayaking was an entirely different undertaking from the river canoeing with which I was familiar. Derek set the bar high, and as a consequence, I worked harder, gained more, and became a better paddler than I otherwise would have been.
While staying with Wayne Horodowitz during a visit to Seattle earlier this year, I also learned about a part of Derek that was previously unknown to me - he was a very skilled and gifted artist. I was a glass artist for twelve years, and was quite taken by two of Derek's paintings that Wayne had on display and also by a metal medallion that he wears - a gift from Derek. The medallion is a lovely design; intricate, finely detailed, and of beautiful proportions - no small feat when one is working by hand.
One painting was of a shipwreck and I was struck by the masterful way he depicted waves. Lots of people attempt to paint waves and wind up with something that looks wooden rather than liquid and powerful, but his fairly leaped off the canvas. The other thing that impressed me about both paintings and about the shipwreck in particular, was the colors he chose and the subtle and intricate play of light – again, no small feat.
Whether in a kayak or on canvas, Derek had an intimate and powerful relationship with the sea, and his life’s work was sharing that passion with others. He was, indeed, the father of modern day sea kayaking and his passing leaves a void that a thousand sea kayakers would be hard-pressed to fill.