Brando Yelavich: The hardest day so far
By Nick Allen 16/10/2018 12:34 pm

Brando checked his watch as he and Ngaio pushed their kayaks into the water, under the bright light of their headlamps. The clock read 4 am — an early start. They had a big day ahead of them – one of their longest – and Brando couldn’t wait to get onto the water. “I knew that as soon as we got out there, it was going to be so beautiful.” And he wasn’t wrong.

Brando Yelavich (a.k.a. Wildboy) and Ngaio, his partner, are part-way through their mission to circumnavigate Vancouver Island, Canada. As an experienced kayaker and adventurer, Brando wants his trip to showcase the beauty of his environment, and to give people entry to a world they might not otherwise be able to experience. 

When we caught up with them last week, they are approximately half way through their 1,390km trip. Reflecting on the journey so far, Brando explained how the rugged coastal wilderness – both the beauty of the place and the hardship it presented – had changed him. And this, Brando believes, is the great benefit of spending time outside.

Brando Yelavich: the hardest day so far. | Photo credit: Brando Yelavich

Changed by Beauty

He loves paddling in the dark. Not able to see anything beyond the bubble of light cast by his headlamp, Brando finds his other senses become heightened. The movement of the water and air, the sound of the waves and the sea-smell become richer and deeper, leading to a more intense experience of them. That’s why he couldn’t wait to get going.

Safely clear of the beach and the breakers, he looked down at his paddle touched the water. “Turn off your headlamp!” He called to out Ngaio. “Look at the water!” As their eyes adjusted to the thick darkness, they found themselves floating atop a bioluminescent halo, the water phosphorescing when disturbed. “Magic,” Brando said. 

One fiery sunrise and a few hours later, Brando and Ngaio were paddling through a small channel and had a close encounter with two fluking humpback whales. The whales, preparing to dive deep for food, would lift their tails (flukes) high in the air. “It was absolutely unreal,” he said. 

The untouched-ness of the moment stood out to Brando. “The coolest thing was that they didn’t know that we were there observing. They weren’t doing it for us. They were just being whales and doing what whales do.” Far from the pressures of commercialism and technology, these animals were free to be free.  

And it’s not just whales who enjoy this freedom. The coastline, with minimal human presence, is teeming with life. “The new wildlife has just blown my mind. On a daily basis, we see sea lions, seals, sea otters and whales.” Wolves come out of the forest at night, and Brando also explained that bears, naturally curious creatures, often come into their campsite. In place of the second-hand knowledge many of us gain through TV, Brando said, “It’s like living in a Planet Earth documentary.” 

The first-hand experience of nature has made an impression on Brando. Being outside,” he says, “is so good for the soul.” For him, the outdoors gives him a deep sense of connection. “As soon as I get out here, I am inspired, and I feel like I am in the right place. And it is just such a hard feeling to describe.” 

Brando Yelavich: the hardest day so far. | Photo credit: Brando Yelavich

Brando’s sense of place in the outdoors is not surprising. Roger Scruton, the famous English philosopher, once noted, so beautifully: “When you pause to study the perfect form of a wildflower or the blended feathers of a bird, you experience an enhanced sense of belonging. A world that makes room for such things makes room for you. … It is as though the natural world, represented in consciousness, justifies both itself and you.” (Beauty: A very short introduction. p.54). 

This sense of belonging is the best feeling he knows. Brando explains: “To feel that connection with the world — it’s indescribable. I don’t have words to express the feeling of that connection. To see the creatures in their own environment – it is so beautiful and amazing.” 

Brando Yelavich: the hardest day so far. | Photo credit: Brando Yelavich

Changed by Hardship

It is against the vastness of Canada’s rugged western coastline that Brando’s internal landscape comes into relief. The day they sighted the fluking whales was as magic as it was difficult. It was their hardest day yet, requiring Brando and Ngaio to travel 75km over a continuous 17 hours. It’s on a day of this length that exposure to the wilderness applies a particular force on your personality, requiring you to come to tame the landscape within. 

For Brando, this means facing his lack of patience. When they pushed off the beach in the dark Ngaio, who is a less experienced kayaker, was way out of her comfort zone. Impatient to get onto the water, Brando lacked awareness. “I was so pumped and excited,” Brando explained, “that I had completely forgotten how she might be feeling in the situation.” 

Later that day, Ngaio’s body hit the wall, and she couldn’t go on. Brando, who had been “pushing the limits,” had to tow her as a result. He realised that he had not been patient with her as she adjusted to the challenges of this new environment. “Ngaio is incredibly patient with me, and she is quick to forgive me when I am not the most patient with her.” Nevertheless, they both feel that being in the wilderness together has brought them closer.

Brando Yelavich: the hardest day so far. | Photo credit: Brando YelavichThe Reason he Keeps Going

Looking back over his life, Brando states: “Everything that I consider to be me has changed, just due to the fact of experiencing nature.” That’s why he wants to inspire people to get out and gain a connection with themselves and the world. “If we don’t know what we have got, how are we supposed to protect it? The world is good for your soul, so get out there and explore.”

At Radix, we love Brando’s passion for the environment, and for helping people understand what stand’s to be lost if we do not protect it. That’s why we are proud to support him and Ngaio all the way.

Brando's and Nagio's favourite meals are: Expedition | Mixed Berry Breakfast***Performance | Free Range Chicken Tikka Masala  and ***Expedition | Mediterranean Style Free Range Chicken .


Follow Brando's adventure on Instagram and through his website.

Words by Nick Allen. Images by Brando Yelavich. 

Brando Yelavich: the hardest day so far. | Photo credit: Brando Yelavich

Brando and Ngaio on their mission around Vancouver Island. Credits: Brando Yelavich