Pilot lands a second cool job - at sea level

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 October, 2013, 7:00pm
UPDATED : Monday, 28 October, 2013, 7:00pm

Having a cool job is pretty rare. Having two is almost unheard of. Yet when Bruce Seymour is not flying high above the ocean as a captain for Cathay Pacific, he's paddling on it as a surf ski distributor.

It wasn't meant to work out this way, says South African-born Seymour, 46. Growing up, he planned to be just like his talented father, a doctor who represented South Africa in cricket. So he enrolled in medical school and played the national sport.

But after discovering flying at university, he promptly changed careers. Six years ago, he got his first surf ski and hasn't touched a bat since. "[Paddling] is the most wonderful sport, especially in good weather. In the summer I'd much rather be out on the water. When you get hot, you either just roll into the water or stop at the beach and have a swim."

Seymour is also the chief organiser for Paddle for the Planet. The charity event brings together the world's ocean lovers for one day a year on their chosen craft - dragon boats, surf skis, paddle boards and even swimmers - to raise funds and environmental awareness.

For the past two years, Hong Kong has raised the most money, supporting the world's most biodiverse tropical marine region, Raja Ampat in Indonesia.

Although Seymour thinks Hong Kong's coastline is one of the most beautiful in the world, the rubbish floating in the ocean appals him. The matter is close to his heart, and he urges others to take action.

"I went fishing on Friday with my youngest son. His first catch was a plastic bag," he says, adding that ocean conservation is important to all of us.

Seymour laments the amount of discarded plastic bottles floating in the sea: "It's amazing how many bottles still have their caps on. People are throwing bottles that they haven't even finished into the ocean," he says.

Name one simple thing that would make a difference to our oceans

Water bottles. If we could reduce how many water bottles we use, it would make a difference.

For example, if the place where you work or relax sells water bottles, you could encourage them to install a water fountain and encourage the use of that, or recyclable cups, instead.

How did your love of water start?

Growing up in Cape Town, we were always at the beach. We would walk along the beach and watch the fishermen. In those days they had these dragnets. They would paddle out through the breakers … and drop a net. Then everybody would buy fish from them and smoke them or barbecue them at home.

Has paddling become more popular in Hong Kong?

It's growing hugely. About half of my business is new paddlers. Sales tripled between the first year and the second year.

The Victoria Recreation Club [of which Seymour is a member] just did a huge project where they renovated all the racking. There is quite a bit of new racking which is filling up incredibly fast. By the end of the year it will be full again.

What's the attraction?

Technique is really important in paddling; it's not that easy to do. Paddle stroke is quite difficult. You're constantly learning. I also love all the equipment. You've got a GPS and a cool paddle, a nice boat and the water. It's fun.

Why paddle in Hong Kong?

I think it's just such a beautiful place. It's surrounded by water and there are so many beautiful places you can visit to escape the heat, get some exercise, and take advantage of all the beautiful scenery.

As a pilot, I obviously travel to a lot of places; Vancouver, Sydney, Cape Town, and Hong Kong are some of the most beautiful places in the whole world. There are lots of beautiful places, but this is pretty special.

Are there similarities between flying and paddling?

Not really, but I guess for pilots it's about sports in general, the outdoor life. At work we have paragliders, kite surfers, paddlers, triathletes and ultramarathon runners.

As a pilot, you have time. If you do a long-haul flight, you typically get four or five days off afterwards.

Do you ever just pinch yourself?

Yes. I've got a meeting with a guy shortly who's going to try some surf skis and he said to me, 'You've got two cool jobs.' Being involved with the surf skis is really fun as well.