EXPEDITION: Around Puerto Rico
PADDLERS: Mike Simpson, Meldrick Velez
Mike Simpson and Meldrick Velez’s journey around Puerto Rico was one of changed plans and challenging logistics. The crew hoped to make the journey clockwise around the island, knocking off distance until they returned to their starting point 278 miles later. The ocean had different plans. Fierce winds, big waves and un-navigable reefs forced them to change their game plan, hopping around the island and paddling different sections of the US territory as the weather allowed. They paddled upwind for 20 miles at a time; other days they did 35-mile downwinders. But they persevered and 16 days later, they had paddled every inch of Puerto Rican coastline.
EXPEDITION: Canada to Mexico
PADDLER: Will Schmidt
Will Schmidt, a former US Marine, built up to this, his biggest mission yet: standup paddling from Canada to Mexico. Schmidt first got hooked on distance paddling crossing the Catalina Channel from Avalon to Dana Point, California. He then paddled the California Channel Islands chain, a distance of 225.6 miles. For this latest feat, Schmidt paddled solo and mostly unassisted and encountered over 30 knot winds, big seas and severe isolation. And he did it all to raise funds and benefit the Wounded Warrior Project, which helps aid military service vets after they serve the USA.
EXPEDITION: Cuba to Florida
PADDLER: Ben Friberg
Ben Friberg’s mission was one of endurance. The Tennessean burned 9,800 calories on his record-setting 111-mile, 28-hour, six -minute paddle from Cuba to Key West, Florida. Besides the physical feat-which included paddling in the pitch black and dry heaving due to seasickness-Friberg also had to plan the logistics of launching from the isolated island nation, from special permits to hiring a boat captain to studying the weather patterns of the notoriously unpredictable stretch of water. After all the hardships, he found success and became the first person to make the journey by SUP.
EXPEDITION: Tahiti to Bora Bora
PADDLER: Bart de Zwart
Bart de Zwart is always planning a mission. A perennial contestant for Top Expedition honors, de Zwart took his act to French Polynesia, paddling 180 miles from Tahiti to Bora Bora over four days and three nights unsupported. And he didn’t leave his board the whole time, attaching inflatable floatation to each end of his paddle for an ama that kept his board steady while he slept while wearing a drysuit for warmth. And then he paddled all day, everyday. In his humble words: “Life is so exciting, if you want it to be.”
EXPEDITION: The Distance 12 Hour Open Ocean Record
PADDLER: Chris Bertish
Chris Bertish added another feat to his long list of SUP accomplishments (English Channel crossing speed records, self-support solo missions on the wild South African coast, big-wave pioneering) when he paddled for 12 hours in the open ocean off South Africa: a Guinness World Record. Bertish stroked his way to the record by paddling over 120 kilometers on a downwind run up his home country’s west coast. According to Bertish it was one of his most punishing feats to date. “I’ve never been so shattered before, every muscle and bone in my body ached,” he sad. “For 10 days after I was totally broken.”
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