Behind the Scenes of “Norway: A Kayaker’s Playground” Film

8-minute read + 4-minute video

In May 2022 we released the short film Norway: A Kayaker’s Playground as a joint effort with our Norwegian Aqua Bound dealers and Ambassadors.

four kayakers on a lake, next to a large glacier

Kayaking one of Norway’s glacial lakes (photo courtesy of Neil Irwin)

Through this film—available in both Norwegian and English—we help share worldwide what Norwegians already know: that Norway has nearly unlimited kayaking opportunities. From its famous fjords to glacial lakes, Norway truly is a kayaker’s playground.

Aqua Bound’s VP of Marketing and head of Product Development, Andrew Stern, and International Accounts rep, Susie Kadlec, traveled to several regions of Norway earlier in 2022. They met with our dealers to show our support and investment in the Norwegian market.

Why this focus on Norway? There are several reasons:

Kayaking is Part of Norwegian Culture

As a culture, Norwegians thoroughly embrace the magnificent outdoor landscapes their country is known for. From a young age they’re active in the outdoors—the mountains, the sea, the fjords, the lakes and rivers, the forests.

With over 100,000 kilometers of coastline, tens of thousands of coastal islands, 1,190 fjords and many thousands of inland lakes, it’s only natural that kayaking and other paddlesports are beloved by Norwegians.

“Around the world, Norwegian paddlers are seen as some of the most serious in the industry, and we wanted to show that Aqua Bound is a brand that serious paddlers can trust on the water,” said Susie. “We've seen significant growth in the Norwegian market over the past few years, and we wanted to showcase that growth.”

Norway is an Important Market for Aqua Bound

Because of the prevalence of kayaking in all age groups, it’s natural that Norway is a key market for us.

“We know this market has potential,” said Andrew. “Norway is a huge paddling market where kayaking is engrained in them from a very young age. But Norwegians are very distrusting of non-Norwegian/Scandinavian goods. It’s very hard to win their support, faith and believability. The best way for us to do this is by localizing our marketing and leveraging the trust of fellow Norwegians.”

3 kayakers on the water among boats, along an urban coast in Norway

Kayaking isn’t just for Norway’s wilderness (photo courtesy of Neil Irwin)

We’ve been developing relationships with Norwegian dealers and kayakers for many years now. Our Ambassador Team includes several Norwegians who’ve come to know, trust and love our paddles.

What better plan than to partner with some of our current Norwegian partners and make a film that highlights them, their country and the potential for sea kayaking there?

“We wanted our Norwegian dealers and paddlers to be the face behind our Norwegian marketing. The paddlers in this film are all representatives of our key flagship dealers in Norway and/or are Aqua Bound team paddlers,” said Andrew.

Norwegians Understand that Kayaking is For Everyone

“The paddlers in the film allowed us to showcase greater diversity in the paddling community, Susie added. “The participants literally came from all over Norway.

“Most of them did not know one another before the film, which added to the authenticity of the overall message: paddling in Norway is really about connecting with nature, connecting with others and is accessible to all people, no matter their background.”

As the film points out, people kayak for different reasons and to experience different benefits. No matter your age, race, gender, size or ability level, kayaking is an equalizer. The water treats everyone the same.

The Face of Norway’s Kayakers

The four kayakers featured in the film are Hege Eian, William McCluskey, Erlend Ringstad and Laila Reigstad. Hege, Erlend and Laila are native Norwegians, while William is a transplanted Scotsman.

Hege is co-owner of Eian Fritid, a kayak and canoe shop near Oslo, in Norway’s southeast. Eian Fritid is one of the few year-round kayak shops in Norway.

Hege Eian paddling her kayak

Hege Eian (photo courtesy of Neil Irwin)

“I’m the second generation running the store,” said Hege. “Eian Fritid is now thirty-three years old. I’m also a kayak instructor in the Norwegian system (Norges Padleforbund), a sea kayak award provider, and am a Sea Kayak Leader in the British canoe system. I run courses and guide trips along the Norwegian coastline.”

Hege hopes Norway: A Kayaker’s Playground will be seen by as many people as possible, and that they’ll see Aqua Bound paddles as a natural choice to consider.

William started sea kayaking in Norway in his 40s, and paddles all year long. Winter has become his favorite season to kayak, whether calm or stormy. He currently lives in Orkanger, 300 miles north of Oslo on the west coast.

William McCluskey kayaking next to a shoreline waterfall

William McCluskey

He’s been an advocate for the benefits of nature and outdoor activity to promote mental health for several years. He knows first-hand the positive effects of kayaking, and has been an inspiration to many others to get out on the water, too.

Erlend kayaks and guides professionally with Uteguiden, an outdoor adventure company located about 260 miles north of Bergen, also on Norway’s west coast. He also loves to paddle in his spare time, often with his dog.

Erland Ringstad in his kayak on the water

Erlend Ringstad (photo courtesy of Neil Irwin)

He was eager to join this project “to know Aqua Bound better from a professional view, as we at Uteguiden have chosen to have Aqua Bound as our main kayak paddle.”

He hopes to see Aqua Bound established in the Scandinavian countries, including Norway, as the first choice for sea kayakers. “And of course promoting Norway kayaking abroad, especially in the US, as it's one of our main tourism markets.”

Laila is the owner of Reigstad Unlimited, a kayak touring and instruction company on the little island of Misje, along Norway’s southwest coast. She’s also the editor of Norway’s only paddling magazine.

Laila Reigstad paddling her kayak

Laila Reigstad (photo courtesy of Neil Irwin)

“Susie contacted me at a very early stage in the project and asked if I could put up a nice one-week paddling tour along the Norwegian west coast that could show representative locations for Norwegian kayakers, and the varied nature and landscape we have in the area. I planned the tour and made all arrangements. And what a week we got! I’m still smiling when thinking about it!” she said.

Aqua Bound’s Marketing Goals with the Film

Andrew shares several marketing goals we aim to accomplish through the film, Norway: A Kayaker’s Playground:

  • We want to honor the Norwegian kayak culture and present a film that motivates Norwegian kayakers to get on the water with our paddles, and Norwegian dealers to promote our product.
  • We want our team members to encourage their fellow Norwegians to try and eventually trust the Aqua Bound brand.
  • We want to remind our dealers and team members in Norway that we’re behind them and support them as true partners.
  • We want to let fellow European kayakers know that we understand the Norwegian market, and we’re a cool brand worth exploring.
  • We want to let our North American audience know that Aqua Bound is a global brand. That people around the world admire and trust us.

 Neil Irwin in the water with his camera, getting the right shot of Hege in her kayak

Neil Irwin getting the right shot

Can We Pique Your Interest in a Norway Kayak Trip?

Our other key goal with this film is to inspire Norwegians to paddle in their own country, and inspire everyone else to see Norway as a top paddling destination. From beginning to advanced kayakers, there are innumerable options.

According to Laila, we’ve already made some headway in that direction:

“People have contacted me after they have seen the film on social media, and are very thrilled and enthusiastic about the sites and the good feeling the film gives. I have also noticed an increased interest in Aqua Bound paddles. Personally, I hope more people start using Norwegian nature—we have so much space!”

Watch Norway: A Kayaker’s Playground below:

The film was produced by Neil Irwin. You can learn more about his outdoor photography and filmmaking on his website.

Do you have paddle questions our friendly Customer Service Team can help you with today? Contact them: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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