Team Name: Heart of Gold
Team Members: Karl Kruger
Hometown: Orcas Island, WA USA
Race vessel: Custom (and reinforced) Bark Stand up Paddle Board
Human propulsion: The ol’ SUP paddle
Connect: Website, Facebook
Sponsors: Bark Paddleboards, Fitness Quest NW, Orcas Island Physical Therapy, Hammer Nutrition, San Juan Canvas, High Street Design
“…and there is a guy on a paddleboard.” Is the kill move that rounds out most of our answers to the question of “How is the R2AK shaping up this year. Team Heart of Gold is that guy that has been the leading cause of jaw drop on the better part of the West Coast since he entered the 2016 race.
In the anything goes world of the R2AK, teams make compromises all the time; trading off speed for survivability, sacrificing human or wind power to optimize the other. Team Heart of Gold shatters that outdated thinking by sacrificing everything to optimize difficulty.
Boat to Alaska? Hard. Engineless? Harder. SUP? Bonkers.
You might think that the bravest person in the R2AK is the guy who enters on a stand up paddleboard. You’d be wrong. The bravest person is our insurance guy, and if you are like him, right after disbelief comes questions: Why would a pro mariner and sailing veteran with a lifetime of epic voyages from San Francisco to Alaska choose an SUP when $10,000 is on the line? Why would the current owner of a 50 foot sailboat choose to downsize so drastically? How do you bring enough water? How do you sleep dry? How did one come to hate their feet enough to keep them wet and cold for 750 miles? Why would you choose something that sounds so miserable? Think of standing for a 750 mile bus trip– sounds horrible and you’re not even making the thing move.
After the questions comes the special kind of awe that is unencumbered by envy, (Really, you are going to eat food pellets every hour for a week?) and an impressed disbelief that Karl was back after a flaw in his board forced him out of the 2016 race after only 100 miles or so. And yes, you’re right, that was the first time the phrase “only 100 miles on a paddleboard” was used in a sentence.
Most of us here would have used the board breaking as a convenient sign from the gods, regained sanity and started binge watching the next season of whatever Netflix told- not Karl. He circled June 8th on the calendar, narrowed his eyes and got focused.
On a new custom board made out of epoxy, foam and the shame of lesser men, since his thwarted run last year Captain Karl has been stacking on the miles-training a minimum of 8 hours a day covering 50 miles a stretch. His plan for this year: 50 miles, twice day, Alaska in a week. Holy crap. Okay, he may slow down some days and may take longer than a week, but the fact that it is even conceivable…
While we shudder at the near-apocalyptic scenario in which enough teams perish and Team Heart of Gold wins, whenever he crosses the finish line he will have raised the bar for what we conceive as humanly possible. Altering what an entire species conceives as possible? Impressive stuff delivered on a 19? board.
Welcome to the R2AK Team Heart of Gold, we hope that your food pellets rolled out some new flavors this year.