Q&A With Karl Kruger – First Standup Paddler to Complete the R2AK

Interview with R2AK SUP Paddler Karl Kruger

Earlier this week, Karl Kruger made SUP history by becoming the first stand up paddler to finish the Race to Alaska, a 750 mile epic race from Port Townsend, Washington to Ketchikan, Alaska.  He completed the race in 14 days, six hours and seven minutes. Race official says that in the two years prior, since the race’s inception, only a little more than half the entrants, including sailboats, canoes and kayaks complete the non-motorized race.

Interview with R2AK SUP Paddler Karl Kruger

Karl, who lives on Orcas Island with his wife and daughter, graciously took the time to answer a few of our questions about his epic paddle not long after reaching the finish line.

Distressed Mullet: What was the most surprising thing about your R2AK?

Karl Kruger:  I’ve been absolutely blown away by the media and public interest in my paddle race. This was a deeply personal project, I never expected people to become interested in it.

DM: Tell us a little bit about how you prepared for the race

KK: I’ve been working with a personal trainer for two years now. His workouts for me have been very paddler focused, and have been instrumental in preparing me for this race. I’ve paddled laps around Orcas Island (35-40 miles) where we live, to train for long days. I worked with Joe Bark to design and build a custom 17’4 racing/ expedition board for the race, as well as designed custom deck bags and had them built for the race. Two years of gear gooning and refinements…thousands of hours of studying charts and historical weather patterns…a lifetime of paddling/ sailing and pushing myself in the outdoors…

DM: What would you say is the most memorable part of your R2AK?

KK: The sweet, sweet quiet and solitude. The wildlife. 

DM: What motivated you to do it?

KK: I wanted to experience this coast in the most unfiltered way possible. SUP Delivered. 

DM: And to keep going all those miles?

KK: Even though the race is extremely difficult…I was having the time of my life. I wanted to experience more…it was easy to keep going…I was hungry for more. 

DM: What is the longest SUP race you’ve completed before the R2AK?

KK: The longest SUP races around my area are 13 miles or so. I have made 30-40 mile paddles for my own pleasure and training many times however. 

DM: What did you do for nutrition?

KK: I am sponsored by Hammer Nutrition. I used their products exclusively for this race to fulfill my fueling plan. Perpetuem solids, gels, recovery shakes, whey shakes, and bars…that’s it. Except at night…I brought a jetboil stove and would make a pot of miso every night…heaven!!

DM: What do you think you were the most prepared for?

KK: The savagery. I was well prepared mentally for the psychological battle. Also physically…I was ready.

DM: The least prepared for?

KK: The media attention…

DM: What would you change if you did it again?

KK: I did not like the water filter I brought. It was far too difficult and time consuming to use. It was light…and that was good…but that’s all I liked about it.

DM: Will you do it again?

KK: I will certainly race the R2AK again. I’ll probably sail it next time.

DM: Do you have any other epic distance races or paddles in mind, now that this is under your belt?

KK: Yes. I’m going to get to work on making long downwind trips in the Straits of Juan de Fuca and other local bodies of water. I also have other ideas…

DM: How long have you been stand up paddling?

KK: I’ve been paddling my whole life, and standup about 6 years.

DM: When you are not paddling, what occupies your time?

KK: Jess (Karl’s wife)  and I run a sailing charter business. Kruger Escapes ski/sail/surf.  www.krugerescapes.com and we are on FB/twitter/insty etc etc.  We do a lot of sail/SUP trips. We love those. There are so many great destinations in the PNW that we can sail to for epic SUP paddling.  We plan to add a powerboat to our fleet this year and start offering downwind SUP trips in the Salish Sea starting winter 2017-2018.

Interview with R2AK SUP Paddler Karl Kruger

Photos by Zach Carver, Katerina Zoe Norbom, Liv Von Oelreich

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Lisa
Lisa is managing editor of PaddleMonster.com and is an avid paddler of all the things - including sup, SurfSki, outrigger canoe and prone, though she especially enjoys paddle surfing and downwinding. She is a former journalist with more than 30 years experience in print and broadcast journalism and in government communications. She is a six-time Chattajack finisher, racing both sup and OC2. When not paddling, she is an outdoor instructor.

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