Hokay race fans. Gather round and listen up. It has been a long, hard, sweaty, 23 days at Race High Command. We are living off the last crumbled bits of ramen noodles from Ruckus, we are willing the damn Weatherfax to stop its incessant beeping (does anyone know how to turn this thing off??), and we’ve resorted to using our treasured leather-bound editions of dark Romantic poetry to prop up our faithful 1981 coffee percolator, which—in a surprising turn of events—has started to beg for mercy. Our throats are parched and our eyes are glazed; there has even been some unplanned barfing.
You think this is all rainbows and unicorns? This adventure race stuff? Transforming lives and captivating armchair adventurers the world over with a dizzying array of VMGs and LOAs and OMGs and WTFs? Watching smugly over the early days while everyone fogs up their phones with the heavy breathing of Who’s Gonna Get There First, and churning out a big stack of cash and consolation steak knives and now even sporks (sporks!?) to swaddle the “winners” in a sense of “achievement?” Writing sensitive, life-affirming, accountability-group-appropriate daily updates in which we poke some fun and get you a hot little “just arrived at work and am gonna open this email real quick to see what’s up with R2AK” chuckle before you head into whatever soul-sucking meeting starts after lunch?
Well, Let Us Tell You Something Sweeties: This is it. The game is done! Forget about the money and the knives and the sporks. Forget about blowing through the most astounding and unspoiled parts of our planet with some kind of timeline, a dim hope of glory, the hubris of speed. Get with the program and turn off Easy Mode. No up-up-down-down-left-right-left-right-B-A-Start bullcrap. The Final Four have gotten their money’s worth, and you—our stunned, forlorn hangers-on—might *just now* begin to understand what it takes to squeak by the Grim Sweeper and actually Get Somewhere. Even the rowers all finished on Sunday—today we’re dealing with the molten core of R2AK, and they’re facing forward.
This ain’t bicycling through the Louvre—this is grooving through the world’s most astounding exhibits on a vintage hoverboard at a brisk but humane pace, spending as much time as you think is right, reading the labels, making it count (someone had to write those labels!). The day is well nigh done.
Team SeaSmoke blew into the Baranof dock at 12:13 pm Monday for a finish time of 18 days, 1 hour, 13 minutes. For those 3 to 4 people on the whole internet who aren’t up to speed on this—he’s been paddling a fancy fast-looking kayak. It really does look fast. But there’s really no room for extra snacks. There’s no kitchen. There are no pillows. There’s no bathroom. Certainly no freshly-baked cookies or poetic anthologies of any kind. Rob’s been doing this for more than 700 miles. In R2AK HQ parlance, this is nuts—something you Should Not Do. These are boats built for inshore competitions and plucking unfortunate surfers out of sticky situations. Not a multi-week international unsupported passage through some of the gnarliest waters in the world. Also with bears. Nuts.
Toybox Express, oh Toybox Express. Charming. Wholesome. Plucky. Also a kayak. Not as fast-looking, but it has sails, and other extra parts. To be honest it looks kind of weird. But didn’t they win you over on day one with their matching set of delightfully-Canadian flapjack pajamas? Didn’t they tug at your heartstrings with their bromance-iversary chronicle of Oh My Gosh Our Boat Is Leaking? Self rescue! Pontoons! Perseverance! A visit from the RCMP! But seriously—these guys did it right. They’ve adventured before, and they’ll adventure again, (hopefully less wet next time) but they understand what R2AK is all about. You and your heart versus yourselves and the sea, even when waist-deep in the icy brine. They got in a bit before midnight and went straight to bed; as of press time we’re not sure whether or not they were in those matching pajamas.
If you, like we here at R2AK HQ, have been up the whole blessed night waiting for the last two sojourners to get the heck off Chadsworth Island (say that with your jaw clenched) and Finish The Darn Race, you’re in luck. Team Bella Bella & Beyond and Team Sporting Chance have been paddling together since day three of this thing; do we have yet another squee-inducing R2AK bromance smelted in the cold, grim crucible of exhausted isolation?
Stuart Sudgen of Team Bella Bella & Beyond has been paddling a surfski (an even faster-looking kayak) for more than 700 miles, and therefore categorically makes bad decisions. But relative to his last two R2AK rides—a last-minute, home-built trimaran (bonkers) and an elderly Cal 20 (lovable, but low points for style)—his Stellar S18S Expedition actually got the job done this year. Third time’s the charm: he overcame the comfort-tractor-beam of hanging up the controls in familiar Bella Bella, and agreed to “stop the race at the same moment [I] have that well-satiated post-meal feeling but in an adventure sort of way.” Mission accomplished, hopefully?
If the surfski is the Landspeeder of R2AK, then Scott McDonald’s Team Sporting Chance’s NDK Explorer HV Kayak is more of a Tauntaun. You really have to wrap it around your body to keep warm. There’s neoprene involved. It can be tight and wet and slippery, but once it’s on, gives a real sense of security and belonging (still no pillows). A benevolent creature with a penchant for daytime travel and aged cheese, Scott is paddling for a cause greater than the Rebel Alliance: Kidsport—a nonprofit that makes sure all kids under 18 can participate in “sport” (Canadian for sports). Is nutjob wilderness kayaking with no pillows or snacks a supported form of “sport,” Scott? Let us know. Tomorrow. Welcome to Done.
That’s it. That’s all the people. They all finished. The Grim Sweeper only managed to convert one lonely soul to his ghastly rounds. Nobody (to our knowledge) is (still) bleeding. The Coast Guard (to our knowledge) isn’t (too) mad. No bears were harmed (please no), or even startled (ok, but ill-advised). A number of boats were badly damaged, as were a number of egos. A number of people decided that 2024 would be a more auspicious time to conquer their demons, the currents, the logs, the waves, and the bears (don’t conquer the bears). But a lot of people accomplished something they (and we) will remember for a lifetime in the last 3 weeks, and many of them will come back and take another hack at it a year from now.
Yesterday we thanked you. Enough of that sappy BS—today we DARE you. Take whatever this momentum is, whatever inspiration this motley crew of wackadoos has ignited in you, whatever the wild and hoary corners of the world are telling you and dO SoMeTHiNG. Build a boat. Ask the patriarchy nicely or not so nicely to screw off. Call your mother. Tell your boss you’re taking 3 weeks PTO to paddle to Alaska. Get that albatross off your neck, find out what the ocean is doing!
O sleep! It is a gentle thing. See you next year…
Header photo by Liam Pareis