If you see a solo kayaker paddling at race pace up the Inside Passage, it might be Rob Hansen of Campbell River.
Hansen, aka Team Seasmoke, is one of only 28 entrants to tackle this year’s edition of the gruelling 1200-km Race To Alaska (R2AK.)
The rules are simple.
You need to travel self-supported in the watercraft of your choice from Victoria to Ketchikan, Alaska. No food drops or other supports are allowed along the way.
Any boat without an engine can enter – just muscle and wind power only. Rowboats, sailboats, kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, converted bathtubs… take your pick.
In 2022, 41 teams entered., but only 19 finished.
The race record was set by Team MAD Dog in 2016. They covered the distance aboard a catamaran sailboat in a blistering three days, 20 hours and 13 minutes.
The race organizers call it “the hardest kind of simplicity.”
“You, a boat, a starting gun,” the description goes.
The winner takes all, pretty much. The first to arrive in Ketchikan gets $10,000 cash, spiked to a tree. Second place gets a set of steak knives. The rest receive the satisfaction of finishing – and a big night out on the town in Ketchikan with other paddlers.
“The greatest glory of all is going to be your first night in Ketchikan, telling stories, not making them. Value is uncertain but damn high,” so the organizers say.
Campbell River’s Rob Hansen loves adventure. He once paddled the Zambezi River, where he says a crocodile attacked his plastic whitewater kayak. He also sea kayaked solo from Panama to Costa Rica with a surfboard in search of unknown waves.
For R2AK, Hansen is paddling an 18-foot Epic 18 X touring kayak. According to his bio, this habitual adventurer is most looking forward to “the joy and consequence of the solo journey, the unknown, the beautiful and the mysterious…..”
Hansen is one of five Vancouver Island teams in this year’s contest.
Participants completed Stage 1 on June 5, a test run from Port Townsend, Washington, across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Victoria.
Stage 2, the main event, starts at high noon on June 8 in Victoria.
Go to R2AK to learn more about the race and to follow the action.