Exploring sport’s spiritual side 

B.C.-based author taps into secret side of extreme athletes in Explorers of the Infinite

click to enlarge Paddle & Pen Maria Coffey and Dag Goering lead trips in exotic locales like Vietnam, pictured here. The pair are coming to Whistler to talk about Coffey’s latest book and present photos from their travels.
  • Paddle & Pen Maria Coffey and Dag Goering lead trips in exotic locales like Vietnam, pictured here. The pair are coming to Whistler to talk about Coffey’s latest book and present photos from their travels.

What: Author presentation

When: Tuesday, April 7, 7 p.m.

Where: Whistler Public Library

Cost: Free

The husband and wife team of Dag Goering and Maria Coffey run a home-based business out of Victoria, but they spend a good part of the year paddling around exotic locales like Vietnam, the Galapagos Islands, Croatia and Antarctica, guiding other adventurous spirits as part of their boutique adventure travel company, Hidden Places.

If Goering and Coffey weren't busy enough with their guiding trips, the pair has also co-authored Visions of the Wild, about their kayak circumnavigation of Vancouver Island. The two also led successful careers as a photographer and writer, respectively.

Though they've had plenty of chances to explore exotic destinations, both are happy to call B.C. home.

"We're always pinching ourselves... it's just beautiful. We wouldn't want to based anywhere else in the world," said Coffey.

Over the span of her career, Coffey has authored 12 different books, ranging from children's stories to tales from her adventures and travels. But in the last two books, Where the Mountain Casts Its Shadow and her latest, Explorers of the Infinite: The Secret Spiritual Lives of Extreme Athletes, Coffey has actually collected other people's stories, rather than writing solely from her own experiences.

"It's the most heavily researched book I've ever written," she said.

During some downtime in B.C., Coffey and Goering will be coming to the Sea to Sky region to promote Coffey's latest book, along with images from their travels, and to share stories from their many adventures.

"We're away a lot, so it's nice to have a period to catch up," she said.

The pair led a trip to Croatia in September, and then Goering went to lead a trip in Vietnam, while Coffey went to lead two trips in the Galapagos Islands, before eventually meeting up with Goering again in Thailand. In between, she returned to Canada to take part in the Banff Mountain Book Festival and do an interview with Oprah for her Soul Series web cast.

That's right, the media mogul herself.

"She was just exactly as she is on the television," Coffey said.

Coffey's latest book has clearly been met with acclaim: On top of the Oprah interview, it was featured at the Banff Mountain Book Festival and most recently it won the American Alpine Club's Literary Award.

"It's a huge topic, looking at the link between extreme adventure and mystical and paranormal experience," she said with a laugh. "...I have this very, very big question - 'Is there a spiritual lure to adventure and where does that lead people?'"

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