Race to Alaska: Replacing Doomscrolling with High Fives

By Daniel Evans, Race Boss

Artisanal cheese. Guns N’ Roses. Corn smut. Race to Alaska. At first glance, these are really bad ideas, but GNR won the World Music Award for Best Group, and a Humboldt Fog goat cheese quesadilla smeared with huitlacoche is powerful enough to build empires. In 2015, Race to Alaska grew from a risky and foolhardy idea to an internationally accepted race of courage, tenacity, and will, pitting teams against a remote and unpredictable coastline. 

Rules are simple: no motor, no pre-planned support, and make it to Ketchikan before the race ends.

A spirit of adventure, audacity, and celebration of the improbable has formed in not only the racers who cheer each team accepting the challenge, but also in the spectators who root on teams, bake them cakes, and give hospital rides at the finish line. A culture was formed between racer and spectator, adventure and collaboration, challenge and celebration. It’s a limit-pushing, comfort-crushing water challenge like none other on the continent.

COVID border closures shut down R2AK for two years, but in 2022 we’re racing again and even added an offshore component: teams can now take the westside of the rugged Vancouver Island and risk it all in the Pacific Ocean. More teams than ever (58+), more risk, and, well, the same amount of glory. 

Though insanely remote, R2AK is designed to be accessible to all; if you can’t race, you get to follow teams on our 24-hour tracker, social media streams, and daily content put out by our field reporters. Our block party called the Ruckus, and our Victoria Open Docks event are free to all. And volunteers, a pillar of this race community, come from across the country to pour beer, inspect race vessels, stand up tents, crunch data, take photos, and do everything else to make R2AK possible. 

Racing this year is a team of four youth—16.75 average age—called Mustang Survival’s Rite of Passage sailing a veteran Santa Cruz 27. Human-powered teams in kayaks and rowboats will be jockeying for position with go-fast boats, solo racers, and even those attempting to drag their engineless houseboats up the Inside Passage. Most just hope to finish, and the journey is what we celebrate. High fives are freely given.

Come to the Northwest Maritime Center on June 12th and meet the teams at the Ruckus; come again for the race start at 5 AM on June 13th and bid them Godspeed. There’ll be coffee but bring your own cup. This race is about self-reliance after all.

See ya there.



Header photo by Drew Malcolm