Advanced Elements Ambassador: Case Study Berthold Hinrichs (and a Close Encounter with Whales)


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Inflatable paddlecraft company Advanced Elements lets its boats, and paddlers, do the talking. That’s why it has more than 20 ambassadors on board testing its wares and spreading their word far and wide. 

“It’s way of getting real people, with different paddling experiences from around the world, a means to tell their story about how our kayaks fit in,” says the company’s Clay Haller. “It also helps people see the many uses our kayaks have. It makes it that much more real.”

Case in point is 10-year ambassador Berthold Hinrichs, who owns several Advanced Elements kayaks which fit his sailboat lifestyle. “What makes him stand out are some of the paddling experiences and conditions he’s encountered,” Haller says, rattling off paddling with orcas and other whales, and photographing polar bears. 

Watch video of an orca surfacing next to Hinrichs in his 13-foot AdvancedFrame Expedition Kayak here:

Ambassadsor snapshot: Berthold Hinrichs, Arctic Sailor

Born in Northern Germany in 1951, Berthold Hinrichs has been making his own way in the world since the age of 16. With a diverse educational background, he has worked in such fields as graphic design, theater set building, nursing, and carpentry. While working as a nurse, Berthold discovered his love for kayaking, so he bought a cheap two-seat IK and ventured out in Norway while on vacation. Later he invested in a tandem, hardshell sea kayak, and eventually immigrated to Norway and purchased a 21-foot sailboat. Realizing his hardshell wouldn’t fit his new home, and needing a compact kayak he could use from his sailboat, he chose an Advanced Elements  AdvancedFrame and hasn’t looked back.

He loves the connection with nature he gets from it, and whenever he’s anchored, he can simply inflate his kayak and paddle with the seals, whales and polar bears (although he admits to being quite uncomfortable when a polar bear once swam towards him).

Models paddled: AdvancedFrame Expedition and Convertible 

Type of water: Fjords, coastal/ocean, bays and estuaries.

Typical uses: Sailing, boat tender, daily paddling.

Favorite AE story: This last winter I left our harbor at Christmas and sailed north of the Lofoten Archipelago in Norway to an island called Senja to spend some time whale watching. While there I met a friend who, like me, is a whale-enthusiast. We spent every day out at sea observing whales and, when the weather was good, I used my kayak to see them at their own level, face to face. One day I met a group of orcas teaching their youngsters how to catch or maybe how to play with a seal. The seal kept its position above a rock and the orcas used occasional waves to be lifted over it. This went on for hours until it got dark (3 p.m this far north). Sometimes the orcas passed under my kayak and carefully avoided tipping me over with their fin. Another day I came very close to humpback whales that also passed under my kayak and surfaced close.

One of my greatest dreams has been to stand on the back of a whale and actually touch him. On this trip, that nearly came true. One morning I could almost hear whales “calling” and I noticed that there were some humpbacks just outside the harbor. I then noticed that in the harbor the herring were going crazy. So I paddled out, and didn’t get very far before I could hear them breathing and saw their plumes. When I rounded the corner I was breathtaken. The whole bay was filled with whales, both orcas and humpbacks, participating in a feeding frenzy. 

There were at least 50 on top and a lot more down below. I had with me my big Sony-cam and a GoPro. I had a lot of close encounters, but one time a humpback surfaced right by my side, just as I was drying off my cameras. It then surfaced right in front of me at full speed and then all of the sudden I was on the back of him. I was lifted up a little on his back and then he slid down I think it’s the closest I’ll ever come to a dream come true.

For more on Advanced Elements Ambassadors, visit: 


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