Kayak Guide and Outdoor Photographer, Rob McNamee
Aqua Bound ProStaffer, kayak guide and photographer, Rob McNamee
Rob McNamee is an Aqua Bound ProStaffer, kayak guide and outdoor photographer from the UK, currently based in Sweden.
We managed to align our time zones for a video interview with Rob, who gave us an in-depth look into kayaking in his area and the work he does there.
Kayaking in Sweden with “Do the North”
Rob works as a kayak guide, among other things, for a small business called Do the North in Sankt Anna, Sweden, along the Baltic Sea. An archipelago runs alongside the east coast of Sweden there, making it a marvelous destination for sea kayakers.
“Where I work in the summer there’s just over 6,000 islands that we get to explore. I’ve been out there paddling for a long time but you always discover more and more places to go…We don’t have any tide or swell in there, so it’s perfect for us to take out inexperienced paddlers. We take a lot of people out who’ve never been kayaking before and it’s perfect for their first experience,” said Rob.
Taking a break during a kayak trip with Do the North
Sweden’s Right of Public Access law (Allemansrätt) gives kayak campers and other outdoor enthusiasts the freedom to camp anywhere, including on the islands of the archipelago. Individuals and groups need to respect private property owners by using basic common sense, but otherwise camping options are wide open.
That makes it easy for Do the North’s groups—whether they’re taken out by Rob or one of their other guides, or are self-guided—to make their way through the islands on their 5-8 day kayak trips.
Setting up camp on the islands is easy with Sweden’s Right of Public Access law
Rob helps owners, Thomas and Helena, run Do the North They offer both self-guided and guided kayak trips from May through September in their part of Sweden. Rob said, “It’s such an inspiring company to work for because it’s not about making money so much as providing the best trip possible. When I joined four years ago, it was the first year we started doing guided trips.”
Do the North now outfits for self-guided 3-8 day kayak trips, and offers specialty guided trips for women-only, for wildlife watching, for photography, for wilderness culinary and others.
For the self-guided tours, the staff gives several hours of instruction to their groups, supplies all their food, gear and maps, and sends them on their way. They make it as easy for their guests as they can, and give them the option to go as hard or as relaxed as they like on their trip.
One of Rob’s favorite trips is their “Solo Traveller” which takes a group of complete strangers who end the trip as a group of friends. People make friends from all over the world. “I love to see that switch from lots of random people to this close group of friends. At the end of a trip we always make a Whatsapp group with everyone in it to share pictures and keep in touch.”
This group is excited to get on the water!
Many of their guests have such a great experience they end up meeting up with each other after their trip. They have quite a lot of return guests who bring more friends. And now they’re starting to have some of their summer groups book a ski trip in the winter, too.
The only requirements for guests with Do the North’s kayak trips? You need to be able to swim and you need to bring along a sense of adventure.
A break in the action with a mid-day nap
There’s plenty of detailed information about every type of kayak trip they offer on the website.
Rob’s Kayaking and Photography Background
Rob’s education and work background before Do the North was in photography and filmmaking. Bringing that into the kayaking world has been a natural fit. Thomas invited him along on a guided trip in his first summer working there to take pictures for marketing purposes.
“I got out there and had my first try assistant guiding and just fell in love with it. It was everything I wanted to do in a job all mixed together…I’ve worked a lot as a chef in kitchens as well, so going out there I get to hang out with people, I get to cook food outside with people, I get to take pictures, go kayaking—it was this culmination of all the things I love most in one job.”
Since Sweden’s kayaking season is relatively short, Rob spent one of his winters guiding in New Zealand, but then decided to try to stay in Sweden all year long.
The past couple of winters he’s worked giving northern lights photography workshops and cooking in the small far-northern town of Abisko, Sweden. In the winter of 2022, he’ll work for Do the North in central Sweden guiding multi-day cross country ski treks.
Rob’s culinary kitchen at an island campsite
“My introduction into the guiding world was through Do the North. Then I went away and worked for other guiding companies in New Zealand and other parts of Sweden. It just didn’t fit with me! The ethos towards outdoor tourism was ‘How much money can we pull out of this?’ rather than ‘How good can we make this?’ I always want to put 100% into it…It’s nice now that I can do it [with Do the North] full-time.”
One of the guided kayak tours offered through Do the North is Rob’s photography workshop, a 6-day trip. It takes place in early September, which offers excellent light for sunrises and sunsets, plus opportunity for night sky photos. Photo enthusiasts from beginning to advanced are welcome with their own DSLR camera.
What’s So Wonderful about Kayaking?
“When I jump in my kayak and just go for an evening paddle—my boss and I go for lots of evening paddles after work—I find it so peaceful and relaxing in so many ways. One being that, yes of course, you get closer to nature. But for me I love the feeling when I’m in my kayak of being part of this thing. I feel totally in control of moving and weaving my way in-between the islands.
“In the city there are so many things I can’t control, and this sensory overload of sights and smells and sounds. But when I’m out in the evening and it’s just me and my kayak and I’m totally in control, I can let go of everything else that’s going on.
“It also gives me a space where I can think. Even when I’m out in front leading a group, I’m in my own head in the best way possible. I have a moment to think about the kinds of things I haven’t had a moment to think about.
“On the other side of that, you can have these moments with whitewater kayaking, or surfing or more intense sea kayaking where you feel the energy come in and you feel the waves crashing over top of your kayak in heavy swell—you’re in control but you’re out of the control at the same time. You feel that rush as well, being tested and pushed by nature.”
Navigation is an important skill Do the North teaches its guests
Working with Aqua Bound
Rob appreciates Aqua Bound’s love for paddling and the way we make paddle sports accessible to everyone.
He says, “Many outdoor companies try to be the most epic and extreme, but what I find with Aqua Bound is this total love of the sport. It can be the super extreme stuff, and it can be a nice way to hang out with the family on the water. It’s so, so nice. There aren’t that many [companies] in outdoor sports that feel so accepting. That very much mimics what we want to do as well. You don’t have to be the best kayaker in the world or the most extreme outdoors person. Anybody can do it.”
He’s loved being able to introduce so many people to the outdoors in general and to kayaking specifically. To directly impact their lives has, in turn, impacted him—whether it’s giving them a new appreciation for the outdoors or it’s pushing their boundaries further then they would’ve on their own, “It’s such a rewarding feeling to have in a job.”
He continues: “Aqua Bound is such a cool company to work with. They’re the loveliest people, super genuine. It’s such a joy to be involved with them.”
All photos courtesy of Rob McNamee
See more of Rob’s photographs on Instagram.
Do you have paddle questions our friendly Customer Service Team can help you with today? Content them: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]
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