Karl Kruger: A Challenge of Immense Proportions

Karl visiting Joe’s shaping room to design his new board.

Karl visiting Joe’s shaping room to design his new board.

Karl Kruger is preparing for a 1,900 mile journey through the icy the Northwest Passage, unsupported and solo on a custom BARK stand up board. His longest paddle to date is 766 miles, so this will be his longest expedition by far. Last month, Karl met with Joe to discuss the specs for his new board, which will need to carry 200lbs of gear and withstand harsh, icy conditions.

To learn more about his experience paddling and upcoming journey, we interviewed Karl and have shared his answers below.

1. How did you get started paddling?

My father was a talented canoeist. He grew up in the Adirondacks of Upstate New York. He was born in 1909 to an Algonquin mother and Austrian Father. He was fortunate to be born into a very strong paddling/ water culture. He passed that on to me. I don't remember the first time he pressed a paddle into my hands. He shaped me my first paddle. We hunted by canoe, traveled by canoe, and just plan old messed around in canoes a whole lot while I was growing up. He gave me a one-man canoe when I was about 9 years old. That boat and I had some adventures. Rivers, lakes and even on the Ocean one time up on Nova Scotia. That was my first time paddling saltwater...I LOVED IT!!!

2. What have you learned about yourself in the process?

I've learned about every nook and cranny. The water life, much like climbing or any other endeavor where you are forced to bump into and mingle with the infinite power of nature. I've learned how to ask for help at the same time as learning how to be self-sufficient. I've learned the value of surrounding myself with like-minded people. Namely, I've learned about the power of community. I have also learned that I do my best work when I am swimming in the unknown...when I wake up and have NO IDEA what is going to happen next. It can be scary, but also incredibly liberating experience. It is pointless to worry...you just simply DO. Just keep DOING. It feels really good to be in that stripped down place. 

3. What excursion are you preparing for?

I am preparing to SUP the Northwest Passage. The route I am aiming to accomplish is about 1,900 miles. Depending on ice conditions, I will leave in late June or early July.

4. What does the Northwest Passage represent for you?

The Northwest Passage represents a challenge of immense proportions. Nobody has ever Stand Up Paddleboarded through the passage. The sense of the unknown is very strong. I am reading all the books I can get my hands on to learn all I can. I have a lot to figure out. There is a lot of mental preparation, as well as logistics planning. This trip also represents the potential for me to add my voice to the chorus of voices speaking up about the realities of Climate Change. Climate Change is real, and the Arctic is changing more rapidly than anyplace else. 

Various Northwest Passage Routes

Various Northwest Passage Routes

5. What gear are you bringing with you?

Not much. A gun for the bears...a RO water maker, tent, stove, clothing, bear fences for sleeping time, a SatPhone, GPSs, solar panel, VHF Radio, two paddles, and a bunch of food...

6. Why BARK? 

Joe is a master. The first time I ever paddled one of his boards, it was an immediate fit. The fact Joe has been a prone paddler and Waterman for so long is evident in his shapes. I believe there is a strong connection between his years prone paddling, and the fact that his shapes are so good. His knowledge of water and board shape is visceral. Starting with his hands. Not to mention, he's just a damn good human. I'm proud to know him.

7. What are some achievements you are proud of?

I am insanely proud of my Daughter Dagny. She is a strong Watergirl, sailor, and paddler. She has a mean stroke, and is a promising little Grom. She has a beautiful seat on her horse, Tappy, also. I'm proud of my paddle up the Inside Passage to Alaska during the 2017 R2AK also. That was an incredible trip. I had a lot of fun.  

8. What are 3 things you hope to accomplish in the future?

First...I want to SUP the Northwest Passage. After that, I am looking forward to captaining a two-year science expedition aboard SV Ocean Watch. THAT will be a fulfilling trip. I'm excited to be supporting scientists as they gather data about the health of our oceans, and communities that depend on them. I really want to sail to Greenland...and do some Skiing and Standup Paddling there.

More on this exciting adventure to come- stay tuned.

You can check out more of what Karl and his family are up to here on his website. We’re so excited to see what’s to come!