Writer, editor, surfer and intrepid adventurer, Kate MacLennan creates her living from articulating ideas and observations, and articulating them well. We think that`s rad. In the lady`s own words…
Was there ever an “a-ha” moment when you knew you would make a living from writing? I’ve been in this profession for well over a decade and I still am barely making a living at writing! Just kidding, but nobody gets into this gig to get rich, that`s for sure. My a-ha moment came in the year 2000 when I`d just returned from a few months in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Hawaii, and was facing going back to waitressing to pay the rent. I`d enjoyed writing since I was a kid, and my degree is in English Literature, so my aunt suggested I enter a story to a national magazine that was taking submissions. So, one night I cracked open a bottle of wine and put some words down and mailed them off (yes, mailed – email was still getting off the ground at that point). A few weeks later I got a letter back from the editor and it had a cheque attached for $800. I was stoked! The ball kept rolling from there.
What have been some challenges in crafting a career as a wordsmith and how have you overcome these? The magazine industry in Canada has always been unique in that Canadian magazines compete with American ones on the newsstand here. By that I mean unlike Australia or the U.K. or Africa, we don`t have a Canadian version of Vogue, Harper`s Bazarre or Women`s Health or anything – our newsstands sell the American versions of those publications. The upshot of this is that there are fewer magazines in Canada to work for, and the ones we have aren`t internationally recognised titles. I`ve always found that a tough pill to swallow, you know, ego and all, hehe.
That said, things were cruising along pretty great until 2008 when the GFC (global financial crisis) hit North America pretty hard. The industry still hasn`t bounced back to where it was before that happened. Pay rates continue to plummet, and editors stretched thin under their workloads just keep asking for more and more from their writers for less and less money.
The internet is another conundrum because it requires so much content to stay fresh and relevant and short-lived, editors expect you to write a lot more for a lot less pay. Often, professional writers are lumped in with bloggers in terms of the value of their content, but the disparity in quality between the two is often significant.
But blah blah blah, all this to say it`s a career in writing is an ongoing challenge. Every year I can still pay my mortgage with my writing, I figure I am doing okay.
Can you tell us about the female surf scene in your neck of the woods…When I started surfing here on the west coast of Canada in 1999, not only were there very few people in the water, but there were even fewer women. Thanks to awesome new wetsuit technology things have totally changed on that front. Now there are not only more surfers in the water, but in Canada women make up – I`d say – pushing close to 40% of the bodies in the lineup. From what I`ve seen and read, a large female surfing population seems to be consistent within coldwater surf communities, which is kinda interesting.
These days you can find lots of women surfing in the provinces of British Columbia (western Canada, Pacific seaboard) and Nova Scotia (eastern Canada, Atlantic seaboard). Out here on the west coast, where I live, I give a lot of credit to a surf school called Surf Sister, which has been making the ocean approachable for women for many, many years. Also, in the last decade girls like Catherine Bruhwiler and Leah Oke – the first Canadian female sponsored surfers – have inspired the rest of us. There is a really strong, supportive scene here if you`re a girl – from other girls in the water and from the guys – and it`s only getting better. We have a cool girls competition each October called ‘Queen of the Peak’ and last fall Lisa Andersen held one of her Champ Camps here. Pretty cool.
Coming from Canada, you`d know a thing or two about owning a good wetsuit. Any in particular you`d recommend for our coldwater Salties? The water temperature here can easily get down to 10 celcius and in winter sometimes it`s snowing when you`re in the lineup. So women probably need a 5/3mm between October – April and you`ll want to keep moving in the water. A 3/2mm will take most of us comfortably from May – September. That said, when it warms up in summer most of us will take any opportunity to try to paddle out with just boardies and a 2mm jacket or something similar. I`m pretty psyched on my Rip Curl G-Bomb these days. It`s a 4/3mm but the technology is so good that if I`m paddling hard it feels as warm as my old O’Neill 5/3mm.
If we came to visit you in Vancouver, where would you take us for a post-surf hot cuppa? Or cold beer?? Haha, even in the winter it`s usually a cold beer post-surf – and I`d take anybody to a hot tub to drink one! A warm shower or hot tub is pretty much a necessity after surfing in Canada most of the year. Vancouver is blocked from the open ocean by a huge island, so there is very, very rarely any surf there (sometimes we get surf able wind swell, but it`s rare). So we Vancouverites usually head to Tofino, B.C., which is kinda Canada`s unofficial surf capital. There, I`d take you to Shelter Restaurant so we could watch some hockey (or ‘ice hockey’ as other countries call it) for apres surf and chill out with some fresh oysters and pints (author interjection: this actually makes me want to brave the cold and come surf Canada just to have the oysters and pints afterwards!).
You`ve travelled extensively – where would be a memorable spot for you and why? Any misadventures?? My first time surfing Margaret River, Australia, stands out – and unfortunately not for good reasons. I was a pretty new surfer then, and I paddled out on what was a pretty small day for that region. Regardless, I was corking it on the outside like a total kook when the tide shifted and some big sets started to roll in. Suffice it to say I panicked, paddled for one and didn`t make the drop. That was the first time I`d experienced being held under for two waves. It scared the crap out of me and I didn`t get back in the water for several weeks.
That said, there are so many good memories and sessions that keep me paddling out again. It`s hard to pick just one…but one that stands out is a February day near Tofino, here in B.C., when I was surfing with my brother-in-law. I`m not sure why there were so few people in the water, but he and I had this beach break all to ourselves. The waves pretty crumbly, but clean and shoulder-head high with enough power you could easily get on them with a longboard. We were having so much fun out there just picking off wave after wave, when it started snowing these huge, fluffy flakes.
I will never forget the light in the sky, it was a bright, deep grey. We would catch a wave then paddle back out and bob around waiting for the next set, catching snowflakes on our tongues. It was so beautiful.
Favourite surf spot: Sydney`s Northern Beaches and Central Coast, Australia. I lived there for a few years and I really, really miss it. You could always find a wave.
Words you live by…
Words I try to live by:
Zero fear, all flow
Top 10 essential surf travel items:
Well it depends on the destination, but let`s say I`m going to a warm water surf place (my favourite). Once all the requisite medical/first aid stuff is ticked off, I pack:
(minimum 6…you can never take enough!)
Ding repair kit
A great moisturiser for nighttime
(2 pairs because one always breaks)
(the first time I was in Costa Rica the power went out for over 12 hours in the entire town we were staying in. The headlamp came in really handy).
Dry bag and/or ziplock plastic bags. They always come in handy.
Photocopy of all my travel documents
(and I email a copy to myself too)