First SEVENTY48, now R2AK Proving Ground: Meet teams Madam Mollusk and Gorgonian Girl

hallie kopaldAll

Teams Madam Mollusk and Gorgonian Girl paddle SEVENTY48 2018

SEVENTY48 was a game-changer for me. I heard about it shortly after the initial announcement went live in 2017. Half-jokingly, I informed my coworker and close friend, Lauren Brandkamp, that it would be awesome and crazy to do. Before I knew it, we were egging each other on to sign up and paddle it together (myself as Team Madam Mollusk and her as Team Gorgonian Girl). While we had trained for months leading up to the event, neither of us had paddled in a race before and weren’t sure what to expect. In the end, the biggest surprise was the racer comradery and sense of community that made us both actively seek out more paddle races and clubs to join. Completely and utterly hooked!

Similar to SEVENTY48, we’re paddling the R2AK Proving Grounds together, and we’re doing it in kayaks that we’ve built. And because we’re gluttons for adventure, we’re not ending in Victoria but continuing northward to explore and camp throughout the Gulf Islands until reaching Nanaimo! It’s a way to stick with the other racers just a while longer before they haul ass over the horizon towards Ketchikan. I’d love to do the full race one day (one day!), but for now this seems like the closest option while allowing me to keep my job.

I’m most concerned about being ready for imperfect water and weather conditions in the Strait, so training this time has focused on safety. We took private lessons for learning to properly roll our own boats and continue to practice other solo and assisted rescue techniques. I’m hoping we can get a shakedown endurance paddle in before June 3rd that will entail paddling the entire length of the Hood Canal over two days. Just because. Although, the timing will likely hinge on how many stops we make along the route to fuel up on chocolate or cheeseburgers.

Our team names (Madam Mollusk and Gorgonian Girl) are a reference to our careers as marine scientists. As you can imagine, being on the water with either/both of us means that you’ll likely be subjected to little-known ocean facts or sea creature identifications the entire time (sorry folks, I’m especially notorious for identifications). While paddling around Marrowstone Island last year during a training session, we created a marine invertebrate alphabet using only scientific names (B is for Balanus nubilus!). During SEVENTY48, we had a lengthy conversation about bioluminescence at 3am while paddling along Bainbridge Island. I expect the same sort of lunacy at some point during this race as well. It will be an adventure!