3 Burienites do ‘longest recorded single day standup paddle’ of Lake Chelan
by Matt Parker
“What do you get when you put an ex-Marine, a Tree Climber and a Real Estate Broker in a boat?”
Borderline insanity and the longest recorded single day standup paddle (SUP) in the northwest!
If you’ve looked out in the Sound anytime during the year and wondered “who are those people?” SUPing in any weather, it is a safe bet Justin Robison and myself were two of them. Along with Art Aquino, who on Sunday completed the Molokai to Oahu (M2O) “Channel of Bones” relay crossing in Hawaii, we use the Sound as much as anyone to SUP. Before we could afford standup paddleboards we built rafts, most times* making it safely from Normandy Park to Three Tree Point or Seahurst with a crew of other local friends.
“I have great memories of building those rafts,” Robison will tell you. “But the standups change your perspective on the distances you can travel.”
In fact, Robison’s bachelor party started on a Friday night several years back when a friend dropped all the partygoers in Gig Harbor with SUP equipment and no phones; the only party instructions were to make it home by Monday.
We did, and in doing so covered about 17 miles in three days, crossing paths with our local Orca population and jumping the Vashon/Maury land spit to make it home. What seemed like a long ways sits happily in our rear view mirror, thanks to the ambitions of Joe Walker, a newcomer to SUP and the local social thread. The first day we met him, at the local CrossFit gym, he lowered his shoulder and blasted me into 152nd during a workout to get the winning time. Shortly thereafter we asked him if we wanted to SUP Lake Chelan in 2-4 days, camping along the way. He had never been on a SUP board, but happily accepted.
Come July 12, he would humbly hold the record for crossing Lake Chelan via SUP in one day, 55.3 miles in 12 hours, 30 minutes, and maybe the record in the northwest for distance in a day (Lake Chelan’s online media source has recently asked if anyone else has done it/what there time was with no response. We acknowledge the “record” is worth less than the multiple breakdown bouts of hysterical laughter on the trip. Please let us know if someone else has done it).
However robust, Walker is still quiet. I had been paddling next to him for about 25 miles and 6 hours on the pristine crystalline waters of NW Lake Chelan when he broke 2 hours of silence:
“There’s something about this Tiki Man (see photo of 18″ tiki man logo front of Walker’s board). When I look down and I don’t have any energy, he looks back at me and kinda pumps me up. Conversely, when I am all cranked and angry about working out for hours on end, he kinda cools me off. He’s my little buddy,”
“Whatever,” I said. “Whatever. Keep it to yourself.”
Shortly after that, I was ready to quit. It was nearing, if not over, 100 degrees in the desolate canyon that makes Lake Chelan. Craig Johnson, Three Tree Point, had generously spent the day supporting our journey, carrying food and water amongst and between the three of us. He put in well over 150 miles that day working off a cinnamon roll and bottle of water or two. On his boat, he had coolers full of food and camping supplies for the 2-4 day projected trek. I knew there was barbecue chicken and Gatorade in one of the coolers, perfect for a long campsite dinner.
“The way I look at it, we’re 35 miles in and it’s 3:30, there’s 20 miles left. What are we gonna do at our campsite the rest of the day? Sit around and talk about our feelings?”
Walker’s call to “man up,” did not go unheard. We pushed on to land at Campbell’s resort in Chelan at 8:45 p.m. July 11. His previous best had been 8 miles, mine 17. We never touched land, eating small meals on mostly floating picnics throughout the day.
The next day, Johnson’s daughter had a question for us.
“Did you touch the bridge… the bridge at Campbell’s resort?” She said
We all shook our heads; we had gone to the beach just to the north of the bridge.
“(laughing) Then you didn’t go the whole way! 55.3… Minus .1!” she told us.
“Minus .1″ is fine with us, maybe a t-shirt tagline. But, we were in the positive for laughter, for which we will definitely all pursue the record, maybe on the Puget Sound right in front of Burien again soon.