Bart de Zwart Preparing For His Most Extreme SUP Crossing Yet: 450km From Remote Canada To Greenland
“I do these expeditions because I love the challenge… You learn a lot about yourself and you see life and the people around you differently.”
The undisputed king of distance paddling and three-time SUP 11 City Tour champion, Bart de Zwart is getting set to embark on one of his biggest (and craziest) challenges yet: a 245 nautical mile (280 miles, 450 kilometres) crossing from Canada to Greenland, aka ‘The Arctic Crossing’.
Bart’s previous accomplishments include paddling across the North Sea from the UK to Netherlands and completing the 11 City Tour course (220km) non-stop. Bart also once famously paddled the entire length of the Hawaiian Islands without setting foot on land. That mission was entirely solo, with no support boats and Bart sleeping on his board for five nights in a row, similar to what’s in store for The Arctic Crossing.
flying crazy Dutchman (who now calls Maui home) will be travelling to Canada next Monday, July 15th, after which he’ll make his way out to the tiny, remote island settlement of “Qikiqtarjuaq” (you can’t even pronounce it, let alone find it on a map!). From there Bart will spend a day or two testing out the safety of his equipment, before setting off for the 450 kilometre paddle straight across the ocean to Sisimiut in Greenland.
UPDATE: Bart has had to change course to extreme conditions, scroll down for details
Adding to the awesomeness of the whole adventure will be the endless daylight that Bart is going to experience. Being at such a high latitude, the days will literally never end during Bart’s Arctic Crossing. While technically the sun will set just before midnight and rise again an hour or two later, it will be more or less daylight the entire time. That’ll be a big help in some ways, but will also make it pretty tough in others (imagine trying to sleep out in the wide open, in the middle of the day, while your bed is moving…).
The big worry, however, will be the freezing water: Even though it’s Summertime, the water below Bart’s feet will be hovering just below zero degrees the whole time (salt water doesn’t freeze until a couple of degrees below zero). That’s not really something you want to spend too much time in when you’re a couple of hundred kilometres from land.
Oh and there’s also polar bears in this area, just to keep Bart on his toes…
Bart will be paddling a special, custom-made, 16 ft Starboard inflatable SUP that weighs 30kgs and will be carrying 70kgs of equipment, including 40 litres of water. All up the equipment check-list looks something like this:
– 16′ Starboard inflatable
– 3x paddles
– Emergency sail system (with one of the spare paddles as the mast)
– Extra fins on the front of the board to prevent drifting in side wind
– 2x pumps
– Inflatable bed
– Inflatable emergency raft
– Sea anchor (to pevent drifting backwards in case of strong head winds)
– 2x GPS
– VHF radio
– EPIRB emergency beacon
– Satellite tracker (also works as backup EPIRB)
– Satellite phone
– Nautical maps
– 2x compasses
– Water purifier (to drink salt water)
– Solar battery
– Full medical kit
– 2x SUPSKIN drysuits
– 1x Patagonia emergency winter wetsuit, boots and gloves
– Patagonia adventure clothing (down jackes, base layers socks)
– 10x Muesli breakfasts
– 10x lunch packs
– 10x dinner packs
– nuts, dried fruit, chocolate, cookies, tea, hot chocolate
– Hammer endurance gels
– Perpetheum electrolyte sports drink
– Heed mountain oven for heating up food
– PocketFuel Naturals energy packs
– 40 litres of drinking water
And we moan when we have to occasionally attach a PFD life jacket to our boards when we’re racing…
This won’t be easy… apart from the small fact that there’s 450kms of ocean paddling involved, there will also be NO support boats following Bart on his journey. The Arctic Crossing also happens to be right near the top of the world, a rather remote place at the best of times, let alone when you’re out in the middle of the ocean.
But if there’s one guy that can complete a mission like this, it’s Bart de Zwart. The man is an absolute machine. Despite being twice the age of many of his competitors, Bart is consistently on the podium at major races. However it’s the endurance events where he really shines; Bart has been unbeatable in the past three 11 City Tours in his homeland of Holland, which is a race many consider to be the hardest event our sport has to offer (220kms of flat water paddling over five days).
I asked the adventurer what his motivation was for the crossing, and what some of the dangers would be…
“I do these expeditions because I love the challenge to do something which is difficult and not done in the SUP world before. You learn a lot about yourself and you see life and the people around you differently. I know this sounds philosophical but an expedition like this where you totally rely on yourself with navigation, food, paddling, safety is more mental than physical.
Because this time it is above the Arctic circle there is a whole set of extra challenges, which all have to do with weather and the temperature there. The water temperature is just below freezing this means that you have to prepare yourself very differently with special clothing. SUPSKIN helped me out with 2 drysuits, underneath I wear nice warm down Patagonia jackets and many under layers.
So the #1 danger is the cold water. Apart from that there’s also the polar bears, bad weather and remoteness… The territory of Nunavut, which is almost the same size of Western Europe, has only 6000 inhabitants spread out over a dozen villages.
The conditions have to be right, if the weather doesn’t look safe to cross I will wait and explore the remote coast. I won’t risk a potentially unsafe crossing if everything doesn’t look 100% right.
The things I do might look a little crazy but I am not. I plan and prepare for a long time and I always plan no matter the circumstances to come out by myself without relying on rescues, that’s why I always bring a lot of gear. We will see what the airlines will say about that this time…”
So look for Bart to start his journey on the 16th or 17th July, and then by his own predictions arrive in Greenland between 4 and 7 days later, depending on conditions.
Bart was inspired to do this Arctic Crossing after watching the film Chasing Ice, which documents the slow decline of glaciers around the world. You can follow the whole journey on Bart’s SUP blog, where Bart will be phoning in updates via satellite phone, plus we’ll keep you posted with updates on SUPracer.com.
Good luck you crazy bastard!
UPDATE 14/7: Here’s Bart doing his final packing and then arriving at Kahului airport (Maui) to start his long trip to the remote edges of Canada. He’s checking in a LOT of stuff… 3x big bags plus 1x quiver bag. Hopefully they know who Bart is and what he’s about to get himself into, and go easy on him with the excess baggage charges :O
“Tonight I am leaving for the cold of the Arctic. There is still a lot of Ice on the Canadian side. Greenland is a little warmer with just Icebergs.
Everything is packed in three 70 lbs bags. The airlines will love me. As soon as I arrive I will do a daily update which my wife Dagmar will post on my blog.”
UPDATE 16/7: Bart has had to change course due to extreme conditions; it’s the middle of Summer but there is still 20km of sea ice surrounding his original starting point. So instead Bart will fly from Canada to Greenland on Friday the 19th, then complete a 400km paddle North along the coast from Sisimiut to Illimut.
This wasn’t an easy call for Bart to make, as he had his heart set on the Canada-Greenland route, but it’ll still be an amazing voyage and from what we can see on the map, there should be some fairly spectacular photos as well – just check out the giant glacier calving off into the ocean right near Bart’s finishing point of Ilulissat…
>>> Remember you can get the latest updates and follow the whole adventure on Bart’s blog