I had the opportunity to chat with filmmaker Brady Trautman about his recently released four-part adventure documentary, 80 North. In it, he and the crew of the wildly popular adventure sailing channel Sailing SV Delos team up with another crew to explore Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago located in the upper reaches of the Arctic Ocean.  With stunning scenery, wildlife and a stellar group of adventurers, this brilliantly shot series takes you intimately into the experience of their 18-day expedition.

In this interview Brady shares his origin story, tips on being a filmmaker, the mission of the SV Delos Crew, his impressions of Svalbard and how to lead an inspirational, adventurous and intentional life. Enjoy!


What was it like for you growing up, and how did it contribute to your love of high seas adventure?

I grew up in Orlando, Florida. My love for the ocean was always strong and I spent a ton of high school days at the beach surfing with friends. After high school I decided I wanted to follow my love and get certified as a Dive Master. I was going to college for Environmental Engineering but spent my summers in the Florida Keys teaching diving for the Boy Scouts at a base in Islamorada, Florida. This is where I knew my life was meant to be on the ocean. Once I got into sailing and realized that it was possible to travel the world by sailboat and live aboard full time; that was it! I was hooked. I took out all the student loans I could, dropped out of college and joined my brother to set sail from Mexico to the South Pacific. What was supposed to be a three-month sailing and diving adventure turned into a ten-year circumnavigation and a love for film making.


How did the Delos Project originate and what is its mission? 

When we first set off from Mexico into the South Pacific, we shared our adventures with blogs and photos on our website, svdelos.com. As the months ticked by our family and friends would still ask “what the hell are you doing out there?” So we bought a small video camera and started filming our lives. We uploaded these short terribly edited videos to YouTube for family and friends to see. For some odd reason, other people started watching and subscribing to our channel. Fast forward nine years and 300+ episodes and we still hold true to why people watched those initial videos. We make episodes for us, our family and our friends and if other people want to watch then great! If not, then no worries. The mission hasn’t changed. We love travelling, filming and sharing our adventures with people in hopes it will inspire them to follow their heart and see the world.

dfgdfsgfshgfSupplied by Brady Trautman/80 North

Where did you develop your skills as a filmmaker?

Developing skills as a filmmaker was all trial and error . . . and a lot of time! While sailing the world you have a lot of down time and move quite slow so we would watch editing tutorials on YouTube and constantly push ourselves with both the gear we were using and how to be creative with editing. I think the entire crew has a natural ability to tell stories and that’s the pillar of filmmaking. You could have all the tech skills and gear, but if you can’t make someone feel something while watching your video, then it’s not going to take you very far.


Your latest film project is a four-part Docuseries called '80 Degrees North.' How did the SV Delos crew end up on a completely different sailboat (the SV Isbjorn) in Svalbard? What was your goal there?

After years of sailing in mostly warm tropical waters, we jumped at the opportunity to join Andy and Mia from 59 North on an arctic expedition. We had all been friends for a while and they invited us to Svalbard to capture what it’s like sailing near the north pole. Delos was currently in Brazil, so we made plans to leave her in the Caribbean and have the crew fly to meet Isbjorn. The goal for this trip was to push ourselves as filmmakers and story tellers. We wrote interview questions and focused on very cinematic videography. This passion to create something different then another YouTube video plus the raw, rugged beauty of the arctic made for the perfect combo.



What was the greatest danger you faced going around Svalbard, and how did you manage it? What was the scariest moment for you on this trip personally?

The biggest challenge and danger we faced while sailing around Svalbard would have to be the ice. All of us onboard are competent sailors with hundreds of thousands of open ocean miles, but none of us had ever sailed around ice. To mitigate the risk, we had a professional from Iceland keep an eye on the ice forecast and gave us daily updates. We also didn’t put ourselves in situations where we had no way of escaping. If there was a chance of ice crushing Isbsjorn, we would have someone on watch 24 hours a day ready to sound the alarm if we were in danger.


What surprised you the most about sailing in the Arctic for the first time?

I expected the conditions to be unbearable. In the winter, the Arctic is completely black and experiences storm after storm, but the summer months are generally a bit more settled. We had temperatures of 0-35 F and a lot of blue ski days. With the right gear and planning we were able to really enjoy the beauty of high latitude sailing without freezing our balls off.

dsfhrsthjrjytSupplied by Brady Trautman/80 North

Could you describe a personally memorable moment for you from this journey that will forever be burned into your heart and mind?

My most memorable moment is by far our encounter with the Beluga whales. It is pretty rare to see these amazing white whales in their natural habitat and we were lucky enough to see an entire pod of them! If that isn’t cool enough, we were able to lower a hydrophone in the water and experience the sounds they make for communication. Let’s just say it was as beautiful as the jungles of Brazil!


In the documentary you say you were excited to “Go around the corner and see what's next." That seems like a great life philosophy...is that how you approach all things? How?

I think our decision to just explore what was around the corner instead of making a goal of circumnavigating the island really set a tone for the entire expedition. When you take away ego-driven goals, you really slow down and become an explorer, excited by anything and everything. I’ve always had that mindset. It’s proven by the fact that we have sailed around the world for 10 years covering enough distance to circle the globe at the equator more than twice but still haven’t officially crossed our track and completed a circumnavigation. Slow down, see more and don’t worry about the expectations of others.

dfgdfshgfhgfhfSupplied by Brady Trautman/80 North

You lived in cramped quarters with a relatively large group of people for 18 days on the journey, and people seemed to get along great. How do you make that sort of group dynamic work so well?

We get asked this question a lot and it’s hard to find an answer. I think most of us really enjoy living with others and the energy you get from sharing your life with a group of people. Most importantly we were all there for a common goal: to explore Svalbard and capture what it’s like to see it all firsthand. Communication is key and not letting other people affect the way you feel. If you get annoyed by someone's actions it’s your fault, not theirs. We all understand that mindset and can read other people very well, so it was easy, in my mind, to live so close to everyone for 18 days.


You've sailed all around the world and have documented some of the negative environmental effects humans have had on the planet, including trash all over the beaches in some parts of Svalbard. How do you see the Delos Project advocating for the environment?

Being in a position we are, with a lot of people watching, I think it’s very important to have a positive message. We often come across very polarizing issues and although it’s not our job to preach what is right or wrong, it is our job to show our experience and tell our story. This often leads to messages for change organically showing up in our videos.  We aren’t going to tell people “Hey you need to recycle everything and stop using single use plastics.” Instead, we can show them our interaction with a polar bear and show how plastic effects even the most remote areas of the Arctic. The idea is for people to make a change on their own from being inspired.

dfghdfhjdgfjSupplied by Brady Trautman/80 North

What do you want people to take away after watching '80 Degrees North’?

The main thing we want people to take away from anything we create is an emotion. The idea of film making is to create something to make the viewer feel something. If people watch 80 Degrees North and it leaves an emotion behind for them to share with others or think about the next day, then we have done our job. Also, if we can inspire people to explore and travel more while giving back to local communities then mission complete!


At the end of the series you mention that you're now addicted to the Arctic. Is there another adventure sailing mission you have in mind for the North?

There will definitely more high latitude adventures in the future! We have ideas ranging from sailing through the North West Passage to filming a dog sled expedition. Unfortunately, like most people, Covid has kind of put our lives on hold but we are eager for the next adventure, when that time comes.

ghkfkfyhjkhfjkfhSupplied by Brady Trautman/80 North

You live a very intentional and joyful life, combining adventure and filmmaking into a dream job. Any advice for someone looking to do the same?

Our mission from day one is to inspire people to follow their heart. I have been super grateful to experience what I have so far. A lot of tough decisions and risks had to be made to make it happen, but the common denominator was to follow my heart and what made me happy and the rest usually falls into place. Whether it’s reading, writing, sailing or climbing mountains, the message is the same: Do the things that make you happy and it will all come around eventually! I recently have left the full-time travel and sailing life for the time being and to a lot of people, including myself, it seems crazy to step away from it. But in the end, I needed more balance in life and followed my heart to the mountains. I know that when the time is right, I will return to the sea but for now I am content putting down some roots and exploring what this life has to offer even if it might not be the path I’m pressured or expected to take.


You can watch the whole 80 North Series via: https://80northseries.com/

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