RAGING WATER A look at local kayaker and videographer Fred Norquist
By Ben White
Photo: Sandy Macewan
If you’re reading this publication, chances are you’re a resident of the Pacific Northwest. And you know that sadly the winter riding season eventually comes to an end. Looking around, you say to yourself, “Where do I get my next hit of adrenaline?” One person who knows the answer to that is whitewater kayaker and videographer Fred Norquist. And he’s known it since the age of 15.
Growing up in the mountain town of Carbondale, Colorado, Fred was no stranger to the outdoor scene. Fred was sliding on skis before he could walk and his success later on in downhill skiing eventually landed him a spot on the Colorado Rocky Mountain School’s competitive ski team. In 2004, however, Fred was introduced to kayaking by his longtime teammate and current partner-in-crime, Evan Garcia. Since then the paddling duo has been conquering new territory and pushing the limits of kayaking from the Pacific Northwest to Chile and Argentina.
Even though kayaking takes up the majority of his time and travels, Fred still calls Bellingham home and is currently studying video production at Fairhaven College at Western Washington University. His ability to combine his two passions recently culminated with the release of full-length kayak film “Reasons” in 2011. Fred aimed his camera on some of the world’s top paddlers (himself included) in one banger movie that kept the stoke high enough to take first place at the Bellingham Outdoor Film Festival last summer. After seeing the film, the folks at Bomb Flow magazine, sister publication of Bomb Snow, gave Fred a spot on their team and also named him chief editor and videographer for good measure.
When back in the Northwest, the 22-year-old paddler can usually be found browning stouts (if you don’t know, don’t ask) on the middle fork of the Nooksack River, one of his favorite paddling spots. The middle fork is a class IV (advanced) section of the Nooksack running a good 20 miles from its origin on the southern slopes of Mt. Baker. Upper Lewis Falls, Timber Creek and Summit Creek are also popular favorites for the Bomb Flow crew and are featured in BFTV Episode #2, “Pacific Northwest.”
Last August I got the chance to film with Fred and a fellow paddler on the Nooksack River’s Middle Fork. Being an adventure filmmaker myself, it was a great opportunity to get an intimate look at what goes into shooting extreme kayaking. Unlike other extreme sports that are easy to access from a filmmaker’s perspective, kayaking often proves difficult to shoot (as I quickly found out). The Nooksack’s Middle Fork runs through some of the steepest canyons in northwest Washington making access by foot nearly impossible. The two kayakers were required to portage a good 25 minutes down old fire roads to reach the put in, which was a whole lot more work than I had carrying my camera and gear.
After getting footage at the put in and traversing some steep and rocky terrain, I backtracked to the Gnar Car, Fred’s Subaru, to meet the guys at the bottom. Because of the Middle Fork’s difficult access we had to rely heavily on GoPro’s HD Hero camera to document much of the action. However, the first person perspective can’t be beat and added a unique and fresh look to our final edit.
You can expect to see much more in the way of extreme kayaking and exciting films from Fred later this year – he’s headed to Norway and hopes to to paddle some legendary whitewater and experience a little change of scenery. To view Fred’s work on both sides of a camera lens, check out his Vimeo page (vimeo.com/user741074), at bombflow.com or at mountbakerexperience.com. X
When Bellingham native Ben White is not filming, he’s skateboarding, snowboarding or mountain biking.