Despite evidence to the contrary, not every team that applies to race gets in. There are more than a few teams that apply but need some more time in the batting cage before they take a swing at the R2AK. Some of our favorite shakes of the head from the past few years of applications:
- The guy who wanted to do it on a kite board, but had not yet learned to kite board.
- Some other people.
We give the “No-ward bound” teams an instructive analysis of where they could use some more experience, a better boat, or that they should at least try kiteboarding a few times first. We tell them to give us a call once they’ve put in the work. They all say they will, but 100% of them never do.
Until Team Perseverance.
In November 2017 we got the application from Doug Shoup. There were some bold-face question areas that leapt off the page: As an outdoors enthusiast, Doug was inspired by the R2AK, but his solid outdoor skills were entirely in the hardcore yet semi-relevant pursuits of hunting, fishing, gutting and packing out large animals from the remote North Cascades. His nautical experience was limited to a stint in the Navy. His race vessel was the exposed and small Hobie Adventure Island, a 16’ rotomolded, sit-on-top kayak with sails and outriggers. A Hobie AI has made it to Ketchikan, but barely, and with a seasoned and conditioned adventure racer. The boat seemed like a stretch too far considering his lack of experience and limited payload capacity for all of his gear and his 300+ pound frame. We told him something close to that, and told him to get in touch if he had addressed the sum total of those issues.
To our surprise, he did—unlike everyone else we said that to before him. Reading his resubmission for the 2018 race, our collective jaw hit the floor.
We include his words here (edited for length), in the hopes that they inspire you half as much as they inspired us:
As you know, my initial application was turned down due to a lack of experience, and although it wasn’t said, I expect my physical condition was also a serious consideration, as it should’ve been. As much as I wanted to go, I don’t disagree with the decision at the time.
Back in September, when I first heard about the R2AK, I thought it was the coolest race ever. The more videos I watched, the more interested I became and started to consider if it was something I could do myself. It took a couple weeks of wrapping my head around what it would take physically, mentally, and logistically to finish the race. After some real serious thought and consideration, I was in. I immediately started training and preparing for the race. That was exactly 6 months ago today. Even with my initial application being turned down, I’ve continued to train and prepare as if I were going.
My conditioning has changed significantly. I tipped the scales at close to 310 lbs when I started training. In the six months since I started, I’ve lost 86 lbs and still going. My goal is to be under 200 lbs by race day. Might be a tall order at this point. The pounds aren’t coming off like they were. I’m fighting for every ounce.
Since we last spoke, I have been in the Southern Strait of Georgia; I would leave from Lummi and take-out at Blaine via Point Roberts. I completed that trip multiple times, not making Pt. Roberts every time.
I’ve also been through the waters of the Eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca. I launch at Cornet Bay and head through Deception Pass. From there, I normally make a lap around Smith Island or the green buoy off Cattle Point. I have time constraints here, too, as I need to make sure I am back through Deception Pass before the tide change. I tried to pedal against the current in Deception Pass to see how I could do—that was an effort of diminishing returns; no way I would get all the way through.
…I had an encounter this January at the Seattle Boat Show with a gentleman selling books. He saw me wearing an R2AK sweat shirt and asked about it. After a brief conversation where I explained I was trying to get into the race and what I planned to use, he seemed a little put off. He mentioned how rough the water was and asked one question: Had I ever been up that far? He knew the answer, and I didn’t a have response for him at the time. Following his question, he abruptly ended the conversation and all but turned his back to me. I didn’t have an answer for him then, but I have one now. The answer is NO.
Prior to this, I haven’t had a reason to go.
I’m not normally a nervous person, but as I finish this letter, my nerves are about frayed. I’m nervous you’ll say no, and knowing the magnitude of what I’m taking on, I’m just as nervous you’ll say yes. At this point, I don’t know if what I’ve said and done are enough to sway your previous decision. I hope it is. I’ve put everything I have into this. Without even traveling the first mile of the race, it’s had a tremendous impact on my life.
Please let me go.”
We didn’t start this race to see how fast a souped-up trimaran full of Olympians can get to Alaska, but to inspire people reaching for whatever adventure was just past their next step, to catalyze the realization that we are all stronger than we know. Last year Team Perseverance set the bar for how far this race can take people, and before he had even hit the starting line.
Doug came, raced, and proudly bowed out at Campbell River when his knees gave out. Since then he’s traded his Hobie for a winter build of an Angus Rowcruiser: 18.5 feet of rowing and sailing multi-hulled fury with a tiny cabin that was designed to be just big enough for exhausted people without claustrophobia to sleep in. It’s R2AK proven, setting a since-eclipsed solo record in 2016.
Welcome back to the R2AK, Team Perseverance. Thank you for continuing to inspire the rest of us.