Standup paddlers seeking world record on the Yukon River

If you happen to see two guys standup paddling down the Yukon River in a couple of weeks, shout some words of encouragement. They'll be attempting to set a world record.

If you happen to see two guys standup paddling down the Yukon River in a couple of weeks, shout some words of encouragement. They’ll be attempting to set a world record.

At the end of the month, Tennessee’s Ben Friberg and Oregon’s Dan Gavere will be attempting to get into the Guinness World Records book for the most distance traveled on a standup paddleboard in a 24-hour period.

They don’t just plan to break the “24-hour endurance” record, they plan to demolish it.

“We’re pretty certain we’ll do a minimum of 200 miles,” said Friberg. “Every time you do endurance activities like this, you’re rolling the dice with your body a little bit, though you train for many months before. But if we perform well, I think we can maybe even get close to 250 miles. We’ll see.”

The current record, set by Floridian Justin DeBree in 2008, is 78.8 kilometres (49 miles). DeBree, who conducted the paddle to raise awareness of skin cancer, paddled from Stuart to the Sebastian Inlet in his home state.

Making their attempt on the Yukon River gives Friberg and Gavere an edge. If they are successful in setting a record, it will not be the first set on the 3,187-kilometre river.

American adventure racer Ian Adamson set two world records on the Yukon River, both 24-hour endurance records.

In 1998 Adamson paddled a surfski 349 kilometres (217 miles) in one day for the kayak record on the Yukon River. He then returned six years later and broke his own record in a 421-kilometre (262-mile) trip.

American paddler Andy Cora topped Adamson’s record in 2010, paddling just over 439 kilometres (272 miles) in a surfski kayak.

That record barely lasted a year before American Carter Johnson broke Cora’s record, traveling 450.6 kilometres (280 miles) in a 24-hour period. Johnson also holds the solo kayak record for the Yukon River Quest race.

“The Yukon River – no dams, the flow is really good,” said Friberg. “That’s where all the kayak records are set. Carter Johnson set a recent record in the 24-hour interval there on the Yukon River. It’s a special place to go to for that goal.”

According to UpNorth Adventures owner Mark Stenzig, who will be providing support in this month’s record attempt, the Yukon River has become a premiere location for distance records.

“What I’ve been told by Andy Cora is in North America there is no other place, no other river, that is so easily accessible with the type of flow-rate that we have and that is non-dammed,” said Stenzig. “(After the Schwatka Lake dam) it’s wide open to the Bering Sea.

“That’s the lure that the Yukon still has for these extreme athletes. They are looking for the most amount of flow out of a river and being accessible.”

In addition to the river’s characteristics, the two standup paddlers have the extended daylight hours working in their favour.

“I’ve done one 24-hour interval already where I had half daylight, half night,” said Friberg. “Having light will be a really nice luxury from a physical and mental standpoint.”

It will be both paddlers’ first trip to the Yukon, but the idea of tackling the Yukon River is by no means intimidating to the two. Together they have a total of 50 years’ paddling experience. They don’t hold any previous paddling records, “But we both have rapids and waterfalls that we were the first persons to run,” said Friberg. “We come from a background of freestyle kayaking and creek boating.

“One thing Dan and I both enjoy doing is running Class 3 and Class 4 whitewater (rapids) on a standup paddling board, as well as, some days, going out on flat water and going for distance and speed,” he added.

They also have top-notch gear. Friberg will use a modified carbon-fibre board, 18 feet in length and only 18 pounds in weight.

Friberg began the application with Guinness months ago. The record book publishers require a lot more than a promise of honesty.

Both paddlers will be wearing more than one global positioning device. They also require a support boat – provided by UpNorth Adventures – with a vidoegrapher, taking footage every hour, showing timing devices and GPS co-ordinates. There will also be a crewmember keeping a logbook that will be signed by witnesses, including people they come across during their journey, such as other paddlers.

One of their tracking devices will be a SPOT tracker that will be linked to their website so people can watch their progress online at

Friberg and Gavere will begin their attempt at the northern tip of Lake Laberge and plan to pass Carmacks before the 24-hour deadline. They will arrive in Whitehorse on June 24 and hope to begin their trip some time between June 26 and 28, selecting the day based on weather and river conditions.

“We’re look for the prime day, where the winds are not a major deterrent, or there’s a major rainstorm or lightning,” said Friberg. “We’ll be looking at the flows of the river to select the ideal opportunity for the mission.”

Contact Tom Patrick at

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