Taking on the Strait of Juan de Fuca at 45 in the R2AK
June marks the middle of the fourth decade: 45.
I saw Star Wars (the real first one) in the theatre at exactly the right age. Saturday morning cartoons were a goal where the days in between seemed like lifetimes. I wonder how many jars of sugar I must have ingested with all those bowls of Rice Crispies. I don’t think the bicycle helmet was invented until I was at least 18…on occasion, a motorcycle helmet was employed, but mostly so I could pretend I was on a motorcycle. I’m still not sure if my sense of the future is much stronger now than it was then. I’m probably exactly in the middle of the target of Gen-X.
My intentions….and they are only intentions because I’m at least observant enough to recognize the potential for derailment…are to drive my stand up paddle board across the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Port Townsend, WA. To Victoria, BC. on June 8th, which is the kickoff stage for the R2AK/ Race to Alaska. The race is entirely unsupported. No safety boat with navigation, food or supplies. Just you, the sea and an emergency locator beacon in case things go sideways. In the straightest line possible, the distance is about 40 miles. The one and only other human who has ever done this route by SUP, Karl Kruger, managed it in 45 miles because you cannot paddle straight across for all manners of ability, tides, currents, shipping lanes and weather. So I’m looking at it like this; a mile for every year of my life.
But this is not so much a story of the destination, as it is the journey. (How could it even be about the destination, if you are reading this before it even happens!)
If I am honest, I have been terrified of this project from the moment I let the words “I am…” audibly escape my mouth. My stomach sank and I did not sleep for three nights when the email arrived that said, “You are in.” Mind you, those are not statements looking for empathy. Not in the least. I signed up for this. My choice entirely, and I could walk away at anytime. This is not a burden, it’s a blessing. I chose to take on this opportunity. I chose to walk through this displacement to focus on a goal that for many reasons, could be unattainable.
At this stage in my life, I have come to recognize that the old saying is true: “It’s the journey, not the destination.” Sometimes I think we seek big projects like this as a medium to help reinforce that within us. I have one eye on arriving in Victoria, BC while the other eye has been firmly rooted in the process up until now.
From the perspective of simply paddling, this journey has afforded more time on water than I have ever seen. And you simply cannot spend that much time on the water and not appreciate the journey. Right up to my recent 30 mile solo paddle, I have tried to stay present on each and every day spent in preparation. I don’t want to get lost in myself on this. I don’t want this to be some long winded naval gazing experiment. Those expressions are for when we are young and wandering. I’m trying my hardest to keep my head up and eyes and heart facing others.
The many months of preparation are complete. Nothing left but to triple check the packing list and hope that Mother Nature and The Sea will set us up with conditions that allow safe passage.
As much as I hope to see this project through to Victoria Harbor, I am content with this journey. It has afforded expanded relationships, introductions to new people, heightened experiences with the sea, health and wellness. It is a journey with challenges but no regrets.
And I am not alone. There will be a total of five SUP’s in this year’s edition of the R2AK. Two of us are in it for the Stage One crossing of the Strait. The remaining three are actually invested in the long haul and are bidding for the entire 750 mile run up the inside passage to Ketchikan. Hats off to these true adventurers and seekers. Only one will get to say they did it first. But to say that, would be to focus on the destination and not the journey. From what I’ve heard so far, each is focused on the journey first and foremost. Bravo my friends. Bravo. Godspeed on a safe journey.
For this mid-forty, aspirational, epic thing…the Strait is more than enough. And the journey has been remarkable.
You can follow along on June 8th at www.r2ak.com