Could you stand-up paddleboard 1,900 miles?

Aside from pushing his body to the limits, Krüger also hopes the expedition will highlight the impact that climate change and geopolitics have on the native Inuit people. (They have taught him many lessons about living off the land as he’s preparing for this trip—more on that below.) 

“Paddling the passage is only possible because the ice doesn’t stay frozen throughout the year anymore,” Krüger says. “Climate change caused by our use of fossil fuels is changing the locals’ relationship with the land even more.” 

As Russia, Canada, Norway, and the US compete for access to oil and gas resources under the melting waters, environmentalists fear how these efforts will affect nearby communities. US-based Arctic Oil & Gas Corp. has already claimed exclusive rights to develop in the Arctic Ocean.

These advances are causing palpable tension among the local Inuit people as they battle between their need to be part of the global economy and the loss of their traditional lifestyle, Krüger explains. His journey will be captured by a film crew (who will meet him sporadically in random hamlets along the route) for an upcoming documentary titled The Next Thing

How did you get into SUP?

“My dad was a Canuck paddler and I grew up paddling, alpine climbing, surfing, and skiing. I first tried SUP about eleven years ago. It was a natural transition.”

What made you want to cross the Northwest Passage?

“After R2AK in 2017, I started considering longer routes so I could be in that space again. I don’t like being without a goal. R2AK gave me purpose for a long time, but it wasn’t hard enough to go back and do it again. I needed a new challenge.”

You originally planned to do the expedition in July 2019. What happened?

“I delayed this pursuit because of weather and a lack of funding, which would have made it more dangerous than it already will be. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made, but it’ll ultimately make the experience much more safe. This trip is exponentially more complicated than R2AK because it’s longer, more remote, and takes me through mostly uncharted waters where the conditions change quickly. Pushing it back meant I could go to Tuktoyaktuk in Canada’s Northwest Territories this summer to hang out with the native people, who are expert paddlers. They showed me their way of life and taught me about the landscape, like how the winds affect the currents and where to hunt. Understanding the changing conditions will help when I paddle the Northwest Passage in mid-July 2020.”

How are you training for the 1,900-mile journey?

“I paddle every day. Instead of going for big mileage, I focus on my strokes and do intervals to work on speed.

I also go to the gym four times a week for an hour each, focusing on flexibility, endurance, strength, and core work. I’ll alternate TRX exercises and hip mobility drills with heavy weights. I perform a lot of moves with time under tension, like kettlebell windmills or clean and presses. I do them to failure. I’m six feet tall and 180 pounds, but my goal isn’t to bulk up. The bigger your body, the more food you have to bring and the more weight you have to move on the paddle board. Size works against you.”

Speaking of fuel, what’s your nutrition like?

“I’m in and out of ketosis. I eat minimal carbs, fruit, and sugar but lots of protein and fat.”

What will you eat while paddling the Northwest Passage? 

Backpackers Pantry has as an Outdoorsman line of freeze-dried meals that are high in protein and fat for cold-weather trips. I’ll have those at night. During the day, I’ll have Hammer Nutrition energy tablets every four hours, plus recovery shakes. I expect to eat about 2,500 calories per day.”

Packing two months of supplies on a single paddleboard sounds like a mission in itself.

“It is. I had a custom expedition board built that I can attach to my paddle board. It’s nearly nineteen feet long and can carry a lot of weight. I’ll put my stuff in dry bags and cover them with fabric dome pods. The weather can be anywhere from thirty to seventy degrees Fahrenheit, so I’ll pack waterproof layers too.”

Do you get lonely being out there for so long?

"I have never struggled with solitude when I’m in the wilderness. I can go for a really long time without speaking to anyone. I only ever feel lonely when I’m with other people.”

How will you push through the tough moments?

“I think the key to success on endurance feats is loving what you do. I can’t lose sight of how good it feels to put a blade in the water, look at starfish, and listen to the birds.”

This interview has been edited and condensed for publication.

Photos: Liv von Oelreich

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