24 Hour SUP Distance World Record Interview with Ben Friberg

I was reading the press release for the most recent SUP (stand up paddling) feat, which was accomplished by Ben Friberg. Inland SUP is an emerging sport; people  are constantly raising the bar in many different sub categories. Ben just broke the world record for paddling the longest distance in 24 hours. Basically, he spent 24 hours in a row on his board, and paddled over 238 miles. He chose to break the record in an extremely remote part of Canada (The Yukon), which makes the story even more compelling.
We got in touch with Ben, and asked him some specific questions about his training, logistics, gear selection and plans for future SUP expeditions. Here is what he had to say:

How long have you been planning this trip?

I started planning the Yukon trip approx 10 months ago.

Where did you train, and what was your workout like?

I’ve been a paddler for over 20 years. The last four years have been primarily whitewater sup. Over the last 10 months I transitioned paddling to flatwater workouts on the Tennessee River. Workouts were varied: downwinders, upwinders, attainments, long distance days (10, 25, 30, 40, 80miles), interval sprints, cardio workouts, weights, cross training). I stayed busy and did a lot of different things but primarily I was always trying to focus on good form. Good form and efficient stroke technique is craft. You could spend a life time perfecting it.

Overall, how’d the trip go?

Overall the trip definitely went very well! I feel we did something that can make a lot of SUP around the world to be proud of. A lot of people can’t imagine a SUP going over 200 miles in a single day. Who knows maybe someday someone will match the distance surf skis go?!:)
I don’t think the trip was any harder or easier than we expected. We knew the type of hurdles that would arise so we were prepared to deal with them on the fly (temps, blisters, nutrition, gear, weather) We trusted that the river would take care of its end and we’d take care of paddling hard and maintaining efficient support.
Planning ahead of time gave us the ability to deal with the last minute things that came up. There are a lot of things to think of in planning this type mission, a whole lot of things! We had a good strategy.

Where is the Yukon exactly? Is it a committing run? Is there civilization nearby?

The Yukon Territory is the area North of British Columbia and East of Alaska. The Yukon River drains much of North BC and southern Yukon. It’s a huge water shed. The river travels in a North Westerly direction before crossing into Northern Alaska, traveling east, eventually dumping into the Bering Sea. The section we did on our expedition is very committing, going nearly as remote as one can get on the globe. Outside of the 24 hours of paddling there are an additional 8 hours of motoring to the motor boat launch. Between the shuttle, the paddle, and motoring between start and end points, we covered over a thousand miles. Not sure if that demonstrates the remoteness or not but it definitely is. One of the locals who helped with logistics made a cool comment. We stopped at a pull off on the way home, looking out on a vista. He said, “As far as you can see….no one” That holds true for pretty much everything in the Yukon Territory.

What class is the river? Looks like massive volume, big water style?

The rivers features are recognizable for what we see on a regular basis as season paddlers. The channel is big but there’s always a fastest place to be on it, often it’s right next to the bank! There are big eddys, seams, eddy lines, strainers along the banks, floating trees. A lot of flood stage characteristics. The rapids encountered are not very difficult. Somewhere between a II+/III-. Obviously easy from a traditional kayak or canoe pov but not as easy on an 18′ sup designed for going straight with speed. Falling in the water is not a desired outcome either. It would be a sizable setback to take a swim in the icy waters.

What board did you use, and what was your setup like?

Board 18′ Carbon Riviera 404. The board is amazing and weighs in at a mere 18lbs. I forget the width but it’s definitely not noted for its stability. My paddle is a Carbon Kenalu. It gives me the best of 3 worlds; super light, strong, and has a little more flex than some carbon blades. Flex is nice on joints when going long distances. Bob makes a great paddle! I used a Riviera Hatchet fin. I wasn’t sure if the river would have any grass, this fin would shed it. The fin is a very gradual transition too so if I bumped a gravel bar or something, hopefully it would auto-lift the tail(stern) over the hurdle. My support boat carried all my extra gear and food. I only had clothes to keep core warm, board, paddle, 2 Garmin GPS devices on board and one on wrist. I think my paddle cadence is somewhere in the middle. If I’m in a headwind I choke up and definitely increase cadence.

I see that Kokatat is one of your sponsors…GMER all the way?

I had a lot of gear in the boat just in case. Kokatat drysuit, drypants, shorty, Nomad booties(come up to knees), paddling gloves. I was fortunately to have a lot of very technical sponsors that have a special niche to doing what they do very well. Each of them helped us achieve more miles for sure. I was fortunate for not having any swims. If I swam I was definitely going to have to immediately change strategies.

What is next on the radar…Any ideas in the incubator that you can tell us about?

We have a very good idea of what we will do and crucial team members have already committed. We have to clear some legal red tape before announcement. Also a lot of planning and logistics involved again. One way it’s similar to the Yukon mission though is it will share a similar time, approx 24 hours to complete from start to finish. We will mos def forward you guys the details.

Congrats Ben!!!!

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