BREATHTAKERS: For Andrew Szeto, Adventure Can Be an Inside Job

A look at the mind behind the OAFF award statues

By Melanie Dahling

Andrew Szeto Kenauk Nature

Andrew Szeto strikes a paddle pose in Kenauk Nature. Photo Cred: Jesse Little

What do you think of when you hear the word “adventure?” Maybe you picture an outdoor expedition with a team of thrill-seekers. You might think of white water rafting, hitting the slopes, or exploring the outdoors in a new country. These are the kinds of things an event like the Ottawa Adventure Film Festival are built on. For Andrew Szeto, the man who crafted the award statues for OAFF, his goal is to infuse that feeling of excitement into every task.

Szeto can get as enthusiastic about editing video footage or building a birdhouse as he can about cruising around a skate park. For him, fun is the ultimate priority. “Everything’s gotta be fun,” he says.

That playful spirit is something that grew out of Szeto’s desire to live outside the 9-5. Going to High School in California, skateboarding became his number one activity. After getting a degree in engineering, he sought out something that could make work life as fun as board life.

While Szeto still skateboards every day, he needed to find something quiet he could get equally pumped up about.

“I started doing woodworking,” says Szeto. “Work was boring, I was getting injured a lot skating, and I figured I’d just kind of build stuff with my hands. That’s pretty much it.”

The inspiration to go from skateboarding to woodworking came from the boards themselves. “We have all these broken boards kicking around town… So I just figured I’d try to recycle them and build things out of them,” he says.

Broken skateboards get a second life as canoe paddles in Szeto’s woodshop.

paddling in Kenauk Nature

Andrew Szeto takes in the scenery at Kenauk Nature.
Photo cred: Jesse Little.

It began with handcrafted canoe paddles, which are now a staple product in Szeto’s woodshop while he tries out new ideas.

As a skater, the desire for a fresh challenge comes naturally.

“Skateboarding you’re always trying to learn a new trick, and try something that’s, you know, a little out of your comfort zone,” he says. “When I’m building, I’m always trying to build something that’s going to blow my own mind, and push my own limits with where I’m going.”

The last mind-blowing project to come out of Szeto’s shop was an a-frame cabin, something he took on with mentor Richard Scott.

Szeto adds another layer to every challenge he takes on by figuring out how to make it dynamic for social media. His Instagram (@szetoszeto) is full of eye-catching photos and videos from his cabin project and more.

“I like to put those videos on Instagram, then a longer format video on youtube that’ll hopefully get some hits and views,” he says.

Andrew Szeto Birdhouse Design

Szeto’s matching handcrafted A-frame cabin & birdhouse. His Instagram is full of progress photos for his beautiful A-frame cabin.

Szeto wants to avoid anything cookie-cutter, and create something fun for viewers to stumble upon. His goal is for his online content to be both informative and beautiful. “That’s the crux of anything I do, it’s almost as important as the build itself,” he says.

It was that well-rounded level of dedication that caught OAFF director Mike McKay’s eye when he met Szeto through the paddling community in Ottawa.

OAFF Award Statues

Szeto was excited to design the awards for OAFF.

“Szeto has this cool bridge between the outdoor community and the art community,” McKay says. “His work reflects that. So for me, it was a natural fit to bring his touch into the festival. It is one of the aspects I am most proud of at the end of it all to sit back and look at the awards he makes. It really sums up why I do this.”

So, what do you think of when you hear the word adventure? Maybe you can take a cue from Szeto and find a way to take it from the outside in.