Paddling solo, Patagonia commemorates Audrey Sutherland’s Alaskan adventures

Remembering Audrey Sutherland
Patagonia honors the remarkable life of a paddling legend and friend with two commemorative works

“She did it all on a shoestring and managed her risks for her genuine love for exploration and communion with nature — no sponsors, no camera crews, no hashtags.” -Captain Liz Clark, author of Swell

In February 2015, Patagonia, along with the paddling community and adventurers everywhere, lost a true heroine. Audrey Sutherland was known for her solo wilderness expeditions and admired for her philosophy, “Go simple, go solo, go now,” which she lived fully until age 94.

Growing up in California and then moving to Hawai’i in 1952, Audrey raised her four children as a single mom and supported her family by working as a school counselor. In 1962, she decided to explore the coast of Moloka’i by swimming it while towing a raft with supplies, the first of countless solo adventures by this remarkable woman.

This July, Patagonia commemorates the life of their friend with updated paperback editions of Audrey’s classic memoirs Paddling My Own Canoe and Paddling North (both on sale July 31, 2018).

Celebrating its 40th year, Paddling My Own Canoe: A Solo Adventure on the Coast of Moloka’i (first edition 1978, Univ. of Hawai’I Press) introduces readers to the independent spirit who figured out (pre-Internet and pre-Patagonia catalog) how to access the pristine, remote shores of North Moloka’i where she spent seven days hiking steep sea cliffs and navigating dangerous breakers.

In 2012, Patagonia released Paddling North: A Solo Adventure Along the Inside Passage, a compilation of her first two (of 20) summer trips via inflatable kayak through the Alaskan wilds, where she eventually traveled more than 8,000 solo miles. Going alone was Audrey’s way of investing in life’s only real security: “the ability to build your own fires and find your own peace.”

Although commercial development and technology make adventures like Audrey’s more difficult to come by today, her stories challenge us to protect wild places so they remain unspoiled. “There should be some areas everywhere in the world where motorized access is forbidden, places you get to only through the natural, quiet energy of wind and muscle,” she wrote in Paddling My Own Canoe.

These re-designed editions ensure Audrey’s stories of perseverance and reverence for nature live on. Challenging us to go inward, her books leave readers with the same charge that propelled her: “Go simple, go solo, go now.”