Team members: Steve Rhoades
Hometown: Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA
Race vessel: Blakeley Boards prone paddleboard
Human propulsion: Prone
There are bad ideas, and there are worse ideas. Race to Alaska, Race to Alaska on a prone paddleboard. We’re not going to tell you which one is which, but, really, you can probably figure it out. Team Extreme Sobriety is attempting to do what no man has ever done, and few ever thought was a possibility outside of a lucid dream they should have questioned: prone paddleboard to Alaska.
Unless you are a Pacific Islander, there is absolutely no shame if you’ve never heard of prone paddleboarding. On the chart that depicts the evolution of water travel, a prone paddleboard is just this side of “swim;” it’s like the stand-up-paddleboard sensation that is taking the world by storm, but instead of standing up, you lie down prone, there’s no paddle, and no one other than Steve really seems to think it’s that good of an idea. It’s like the part of surfing that you have to endure to get out to the waves—you lie down on the board and use your arms. It’s as simple as it gets.
Simple might be elegant as a concept, but in this case simple ain’t easy.
If there is a harder way to get to Alaska by water, we haven’t heard of it. Lying down on a board and doing the crawl stroke for 750 miles means you are in the water as much as you are out of it; and your gear is limited to your body, your wetsuit, and a few days of calories. With your head inches above the water, every wave rolling your way will slap your face with a 50-degree reminder of your poor choices. Every wave, all day, in your face. We don’t even want to think about the prune hands, feet, and other parts from non-stop water absorption.
“What?” covered; lets move on to, “Why?”
Ignoring the half of that question that is, “Why would you let him in the race?” and focusing on, “Why would someone try to prone paddle to Alaska?” it is entirely accurate to say that alcohol was involved, but not in the way you think.
In a decision that was both more and less complicated than taking a 13-step journey off of a 12-step pier, Steve Rhodes decided the R2AK was the latest in an impressive set of feats in his journey through addiction.
His downward spiral started sometime earlier, but his rock bottom was 1993. 15 years into living on the streets after drinking his way into a discharge from one of the Marine Corps elite Recon units, it was 1993 and he was in Kent, WA, “…getting kicked out of a whorehouse/crack house. They were throwing all my stuff out of the front door, and they were probably going to have me shot because I used up all the cocaine I was supposed to be selling.”
On the bus ride that was his getaway, he met a minister who connected him first with refuge, and eventually religion and a new purpose. 20-plus sober years after that fateful bus ride, Steve toils as a street minister in Seattle—connecting with homeless addicts where they live, and using his skills and talents to raise money and awareness for homeless in recovery.
So, what have you been doing lately?
In all honesty, we don’t know if it’s possible for a prone boarder to get to Alaska in the time allowed—we’ll be impressed as hell whenever he gets to Victoria—but we love his spirit, his intent to raise awareness and funds for such a worthy cause, and we love his training. Steve will do a 25-mile lap around Bainbridge Island and then jump on his bike and ride the Chilly Hilly bike race (also 25 miles.)—record time is 8 hours and change. Even more inspiring is that his race plan includes dropping his board in Ketchikan and cycling across Canada and home to Washington to raise funds and awareness for homeless addiction. Beyond inspiring.
Welcome to the R2AK, Team Extreme Sobriety… we honestly can’t end this in anything that approaches biting humor. Thanks for your work and for gracing the R2AK with your spirit and compassion. We wish you the best of luck, and as dry a face as possible.