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Inner City Blues

Inner City Blues

Many city goers are under the impression that standup paddle boarding depicts an incredibly calm, slowed down lifestyle, which does not seem fathomable in the hustle and bustle of urban areas. Despite this belief, BOTE Photographer, Sean Murphy, took a trip to Detroit to show that urban paddling is for anyone and the best view is from water.

While on a 40 day family trip across the country, BOTE photographer, Sean Murphy, decided to take a day trip into Detroit to get some shots with his paddle board. “We drove up to Detroit for the day from Raphye's hometown of Monroe to check out the sites. As we drove on the outskirts of the city, I realized how amazing it would be to see it from the water,” says Murphy. Immediately Murphy grabbed his board and took off, right across from downtown on Belle Isle, and began paddling to the middle of the Detroit River.

BOT Photographer Sean Murphy Detroit

“To see the cityscape from a paddle board was one of the most serene feelings I have ever felt. To be able to remove yourself from the hustle and bustle of the city and plant yourself on placid water within a matter of minutes was unreal. Seeing everything from my board completely changed my view of the city. I wondered how many other people had had the opportunity to see their city from this view.”

After getting back in the car from the paddle, Murphy set off to find some desolate urban spots to shoot his board in. “We randomly pulled off into a sketchy neighborhood in search of some good backdrops. It was totally desolate except for a few old houses and a couple on their front porch checking us out with binoculars. I really wanted to shoot my HD 12’ Realtree against a wall in a patch of flowers so I pulled into a vacant lot and set it up. Once I started shooting, the couple began to make fun of us and partake in some mutual banter. Despite their harmless mockery, I went over to say hi and see what I could find out about the area,” says Sean.

HD Camo against brick wall

They told him that a majority of the houses in the neighborhood had been completely abandoned and that they were one of the only families left in the area. “It had a strong Chernobyl feel with completely deserted houses and no people in sight. It was a very uncanny feeling, but they said they got along just fine, none the less. We wanted to learn more about this couple but were running late for another shoot, so we asked if they would be interested in meeting up later to hangout,” says Murphy.

After obliging, Sean and Raphye left the couple to venture back into the city, but Sean could not get these people that live so remotely yet in a big city out of his head. “I felt a strong connection to this couple, and I wanted to expose them to the opportunities that the city had for them. In an effort to show them that we really had all the best intentions, we found a chicken on the side of the road and presented it to them as a gift…naturally,” says Sean. Luckily, they were enthralled by not only the chicken, but also Sean and Raphye’s return, so after some talking into, they agreed to pose with Sean’s board for some pictures.

Couple posing with HD

woman kissing chicken

The couple became known as Franny and Russ and after spending a little while shooting with them, Murphy decided it was time to give them a paddling lesson. “We took them to the nearest water and after giving them a quick rundown of the paddling basics, they were ready to hit the water,” explains Murphy. Although Franny had a quick mishap and fell in, the paddle was altogether a big success.

Photographer teaches couple to paddle Man watches wife paddle Woman falls off paddle board Man paddling in inner city

“Franny and Russ were both entranced by the ease at which they picked up paddle boarding and could so simply escape their everyday lives. To be on that beautiful inner city blue water let them leave all of their worries behind. The decimated houses and trashed streets were suddenly replaced by the beautiful city scape that they were rarely able to enjoy. It was an amazing experience to offer them that escape even if it was just for an hour,” says Sean.

Sean with couple paddling

Franny and Russ still write Sean letters to this day, although not too often due to their lack of a computer or internet access. Sean will never forget the couple, the city, or the chicken.

To learn more about Sean and his photography, please visit:

Published on Thursday, March 24, 2016 in Road Trippin', Stories