On June 25, Karl Kruger be­came the first standup pad­dler to com­plete the Race to Alaska (R2AK)—A 750-mile, man-pow­ered ex­pe­di­tion race from Port Townsend, Wash­ing­ton to Ketchikan, Alaska. Among the 62 teams en­tered in this year’s race, on ves­sels from sea

SUP Magazine - - Frontside -

AGE: 45

"The race was 15 days and 766 miles to­tal. And I only lost 12 pounds!"

For the first R2AK in 2015, I was on a team with two other guys and we were go­ing to race a tri­maran. The owner backed out and I was left with­out a ride. I started think­ing about how the Na­tive Amer­i­cans up here didn’t sail, but pad­dled ev­ery­where be­cause it was the most re­li­able form of trans­porta­tion. I’ve been standup pad­dling and rac­ing SUPS for about six years and one day my wife looked at me and was like, “Why don’t you standup pad­dle the R2AK?” It just ex­ploded in my brain and I knew that was what I needed to do.

I signed up for last year’s race and made it through the qual­i­fy­ing leg, 42 miles in su­per rough wa­ter. At the end of the day my board failed with a ton of stress frac­tures. I was in fourth place when I had to bail.

This year I gave it an­other shot with a solid new board cus­tom-built by Joe Bark. I led the pack for the first day and av­er­aged around 50 miles a day for the rest of the race. The long­est day I did was 72 miles in 14 hours. Other days I didn’t make much progress be­cause of the crazy tidal cur­rents in a lot of those chan­nels.

All my food came with me from the start. It was all sci­ence, tons of calo­ries fo­cused for ath­letic per­for­mance—en­ergy chews, gels, re­cov­ery shakes and bars. My daily bud­get was 3500 calo­ries, which isn’t enough but I couldn’t carry any more weight. It wasn’t fun in terms of food, but my body felt re­ally good.

Men­tally, I felt well pre­pared. My strat­egy for get­ting through the tough men­tal spells was to just fo­cus on why I was doing this, why I love SUP. It’s such an un­fil­tered way of ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the en­vi­ron­ment. I’d fo­cus on the rain­drops hit­ting the wa­ter, the whales breach­ing, stuff like that. I let the en­vi­ron­ment carry me along.

The long por­tion of the race from Vic­to­ria to Ketchikan took me 14 days, five hours and 17 min­utes. I pad­dled 722 miles. With the qual­i­fier, the race was 15 days and 766 miles to­tal. And I only lost 12 pounds!

Com­ing into the fin­ish I swear I could smell food from 10 miles out­side Ketchikan. Af­ter two weeks alone buried in this in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ence I was so deep that to fi­nally end it was shock­ing. Hun­dreds of peo­ple came to watch me fin­ish, which blew my mind. My wife and daughter came out on a boat to meet me and it was crazy emo­tional. Cross­ing the ac­tual fin­ish line was a lit­tle awk­ward be­cause there were so many peo­ple and no one knew what to say. I’d just pad­dled 750 miles and wasn’t ready to have a con­ver­sa­tion (laughs). I can hon­estly say I had the time of my life out there.

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