An Interview with a Gold Panning Legend
A household name in the world of gold panning; Ken Karlsson is the Swedish-born former Vice President of the World Gold Panning Association and multi award-winning gold panner. A true friend and awesome panner, Ken’s vigour and strength for the sport still, to this day astounds me. He is an inspiration to me and many like me who have a love for gold.
Ken and I met on the gold panning scene some years back when I was grabbed around the shoulder by a fellow British gold panner and asked to fill in for a 3-man team during the British gold panning championships. The answer (as always) was “Sure, why the heck not!” Moments later I was standing in front of a cool looking man-and-wife team, little did I know, it was the infamous Ken and Ulla. I had no idea I was standing in front of two living legends, one of which was the very man who designed my gold pan. Not just that, but both boasted so many international trophies that they had to build another room in their house to accommodate… true story. Competing alongside my new European friends was brilliant, just brilliant. I felt like a student learning from a “not so old” master. That year we took the gold medal in the British gold panning championships 3-man team event thanks to the skills of Ken and Ulla and I’ve been in touch ever since.
Ken is also the person I call when I need gold from a country I have not visited, most recently this was for a couple looking for Swedish gold to tie into their Swedish Heritage. He is a responsible gold panner and someone I know will be providing me with sustainably sourced gold for my ethical gold wedding rings.
When I asked if I could grill Ken on all things gold for my new fancy blog, he was, as always, a true sport and cooperated. So, stick the kettle on and sit back and enjoy my tete-a-tete with him.
How did you discover gold panning as a past time initially?
Well it all started when I was a young kid, aged around 8 or 10. I accompanied my grandfather on a trip to visit a friend of his. That man was a famous geologist and when I saw his collection of minerals I was stoked. Much later, in the late 1960’s that man started gold panning with tourists in our area and thereafter entered in to the first competitions in Kopparberg in 1984. I was of course also involved in those gold panning competitions from the beginning and the Kopparberg Open Gold Panning Championships has become a prolific event every year since. Our municipality have been very proud of the name “Swedens Klondyke” and always been a big sponsor.
How long have you been panning for gold and what changes have you noticed over the years?
For almost 40 years now, I have been stoked by gold fever. When we are talking about digging and prospecting there is a huge difference. When I started we were very few who was “crazy” enough to even think there was gold to be found in our region of Sweden. Today there are thousands of prospectors out there digging all year round over the whole country, and some have even claimed gold in Finland, which I too have claimed.
When it comes to the equipment used, there is a huge difference now. Today, the tools and equipment are a lot more sophisticated than what we had.
In terms of competing, a lot has changed with skill and the time, mostly because of the “flat pan”. Today almost 100% of all panners competing use that pan, specifically the SuperChamp pan, which makes me very proud.
Where’s your favourite place to pan for gold in the world?
Of all the places I have panned for gold, there is without any doubt one favourite. Yukon Territory, Canada is my number one spot. Not only for the history, which I love, but for alluvial gold and the spectacular nature and friendly people.
Apart from your wife of course, have you managed to pass on your love for this (sport/past time) to any members of the family?
When people ask me about my family, my answer is, it`s a big one. 500-600 hundred crazy gold panners, that`s my family. My Gold Panning School runs every summer, and I have so far taught some 45,000 people how to pan for gold. I have passed on my love for gold and panning to most of them.
What’s the gold panning like in your home country?
There are a lot of people panning for gold out there. We do not find big nuggets, but if you know where to look, and know how to use your tools, there is gold to be found.
If you could pass on a few words of advice regarding how to pan for gold in a manner which has a low environmental impact, what would they be?
First, I would always avoid using machinery. Try to find a way to use hand tools, and always remember to ask the landowner permission to dig. In Sweden we have a unique law which allows us to go out into nature looking for minerals. It`s called the “ Allemanrätten” and essentially, allows everyone to work with nature, respectfully.
What does the future hold for you and your favourite past time?
After 20 years of running the local tourist office, I will quit after this year. Our apartment in Cyprus is nearly ready for us to move in to, so we will probably spend most of the winter down there. Summertime, however, we will be Gold panning in Sweden, and all over the world.
Can you think of a favourite memory?
It was 1992, in Scotland, Leadhills, Wanlookhead at the World Gold panning Championships, where I met the love of my life, Ulla. Ever since that day I have been the luckiest man on earth. To share your life with someone that have the same crazy interest is amazing.
Tell us a little about your business in the world of gold Ken. What is it called, what do you do and how can people reading this blog get involved?
Our business name is Gold & Adventure, and from the beginning our business idea was to cover all outdoor activities such as fishing, hunting, canoeing etc. But the main thing was gold panning and outdoor cooking. Today, however the majority of what we do is gold panning. We sell gold panning equipment such as pans, sluice boxes, pumps and so on. We also always have natural gold for sale, as we have a huge network of friends digging for gold all over the world, so we can source gold from a lot of countries. Our website is not that updated as it should be due to lack of time. But you can find us at www.guldaventyr.se or at Facebook at Guld & Äventyr AB.
Golden greetings from Ken & Ulla.