R2AK: A Q&A With Paddleboarder Karl Kruger
by Cecil Sanders
Imagine paddling 750 miles. Now imagine paddling standing up, with no support team and in the cold waters of the Gulf of Alaska from Port Townsend, WA, to Ketchikan, AK, in two weeks. Enter Karl Kruger, the first first person to complete the R2AK (Race to Alaska) on a stand-up paddle board (SUP). We reached out to Karl with a few questions.
CS: How long have you been stand-up paddle boarding? KK: I grew up paddling canoes, and have paddled SUP for 5 or 6 years now. CS: Was the R2AK your most difficult/arduous long journey on a board? KK: Absolutely, yes. CS: What was the scariest scenario you experienced during the race? KK: There were no scary experiences. There were only difficult experiences. Challenging experiences. Physically arduous experiences. But not scary. Every day had its very own unique version of hard. Crossing Dixon entrance was not my longest day in terms of mileage, but it was my most difficult day in terms of the wind and water conditions, and the duration of paddling. It was a fourteen hour paddling day, and the day before I finished the race, but I was never scared Just working. CS: What are your other interests? KK: I grew up in the outdoors canoeing, hiking, and climbing rock, ice and alpine mountain. I also raced on skis and snowboard, windsurfed, and sailed. I found surfing about ten years ago, and then about 5-6 years ago moved into SUP and SUP surfing. My wife and I run a sailing charter business, so sailing is still a very active pursuit in my life. CS: Any specific motivation help get you through the race? KK: I have a real distaste for failure. I was in it for the experience, and wanted to experience all this coast could offer. So in that sense, I was ready for each day and what it held. I wanted to embrace it. Embracing it allows you to move through it, both the highs and the lows. CS: Will you be on a SUP in the R2AK in 2018? KK: Nope. I’m going to be on a fast sailboat. I’ve been asked if—having experience this—would I do it again. And I would. But I don’t need to. If I do the race again I’d like to experience it in a new way.
Karl Kruger on SUP in the 2017 R2AK. | Credit: Liv von Oelreich
Sunny weather during the 2017 R2AK. | Credit: Katrina Zoë Norbom
Gear strapped onto board in dry bags. | Credit: Katrina Zoë Norbom
Karl Kruger on a SUP. | Credit: Liv von Oelreich
Karl Kruger, his wife Jessica and daughter Dagny at R2AK finish line. | Credit: Zach Carver
Karl Kruger finishes in Ketchikan | Credit: Zach Carver
Click here to learn more about the Race2AK. If you enjoyed this article, check out "Kayaking Resurrection Bay."
Just wow…..my grandfather brought many seiners through those waters and I took an 950 foot cargo ship through and saw big trawlers and thought they looked like corks, I can’t imagine what a board would look like …. what an amazing journey! Congratulations on a huge accomplishment!
This is one hard-assed event, and not for the weak. My hat’s off to all who have participated, past, present, failed or finished. If I were younger, I’d go for it at least once, LOL! Keep chasing your dreams and challenges.
That is an outstanding accomplishment.