Saturday, January 14, 2006

Spotlight on AlaskanSeaHorse

The real benefit of doing a WaterTribe Challenge, is in meeting and getting to know the "WaterTribers". I find it difficult to put into words a good description of this group of adventure racers, though certainly most of the adjectives one would use in portraying a specialized group of athletes would apply. But the word "colorful" also comes to mind. And so does AlaskanSeaHorse.

If you follow WaterTribe or have read my article on the 2004 Everglades Challenge, you will have heard about AlaskanSeaHorse (Gregg Berman). ASH had borrowed a kayak and paddle for the 2004 EC that was not a good fit for him. TurtleWoman (my adhoc partner) and I hooked up with him at Flamingo where he was nursing his wounds (horrible hands and butt blisters) and taking himself out of the race. With only the 37 mile crossing of Florida Bay left, I promised him a nice easy slow paddle to the finish if he came with us. Read the article if you want to know what really happened. He has since forgiven me, and even thanked me as we did finish the Challenge. Photo: AlaskanSeaHorse, SandyBottom, TurtleWoman arriving at the finish in Key Largo.

Our experiences forged a friendship that we have kept over the past 2 years. At the start of EC2005, I gave ASH a tube of Hydropel, the best thing for preventing blisters. We met again on the course in the Everglades on WhiteWater Bay. By that time we became a large group of 6 (RescueRandy, ArcticDoc, RubberDucky, BilgePump, and myself) all having a great time, and finishing together.

I was thrilled when I heard ASH was also planning to do the Ultimate Challenge. Knowing the participants who will be out there, will make the challenge seem less lonely, with only 10 Challengers, this will be a real solo event . Throughout the year, through email, ASH and I have shared tips, and continually offered encouragement and support. He has a small group of friends that get occasional trip reports from him, and I am pleased to be included, as his adventures in the 'big surf' are awe inspiring, and motivating. Photo: ASH, Sunset in the Everglades, EC '05.

Let me tell you a little about Gregg.

Gregg started paddling just over 13 years ago, when for the first time in a kayak, he took at trip with the Sierra Club in the Florida Keys. Not long after that trip he purchased his first boat and paddle. He continued doing Sierra Club trips and eventually became a Sierra Club guide for a wide variety of trips including cycling, caving and setting up his own multi day paddling adventures. This led to a realization that guiding would be a good way to make a living while exploring the planet. Guiding led to the need for advanced first-aid, he then went on to acquire an EMT certification, then paramedic and eventually his nursing certification. He now alternates between a career in nursing and one of guiding and instructing kayaking.

Gregg has guided and taught for numerous kayak companies on both coasts of Florida including multi day trips in the Everglades and Florida keys. He then spent 2 seasons guiding on Lake Superior off the coasts of Canada, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, and another couple of seasons in Alaska. In Alaska he guided 4 - 7 day trips in Prince William Sound, paddling among house size and larger ice bergs at the face of glaciers, had close up encounters with orcas and humpbacks, sea lions, sea otters, and a myriad list of other creatures from multicolored sea stars to majestic Bald eagles.

The second season in Alaska, Gregg completed a 3 month solo trip paddling from Skagway Alaska at the top of the inside passage to Prince Rupert, Canada. Early on in the trip, he got caught in a gale and found himself shore bound sitting out the storm for four days. It was this experience that turned the trip around, teaching him to slow down and enjoy what what was around him, allowing him to really enjoy the scenery, meet the people along the route, providing a more worldly experience.

While in nursing school Gregg spent a summer guiding tours to see the grey whales in Trinidad Bay in Northern California, and to explore the sea caves along the Mendocino coast. He's been back in Northern California for the past 18 months, now living in Half Moon Bay. He divides his time between teaching for California Canoe and Kayak and working as an RN in the local hospitals emergency room. He's in a small seaside town just 20 minutes south of San Francisco. Yet despite the proximity of such a large and culturally diverse city to the north, to the south it is still a wild and undeveloped coastline. Half Moon Bay is also home to the famous big seas adventure group the Tsunami Rangers. They play at the juncture of land and sea in sea states that drive most others off the water. Gregg has been fortunate enough to be able to learn and play with these "extremists" and even live on the beach side property belonging to Michael Powers, one of the Rangers. Half Moon Bay is also home to Mavericks, one of the most famous big wave surf spots, known for wave heights of 30 - 40 feet, when conditions are right. Gregg can often be found there surfing more manageable 6 to 10 foot waves with friends, however, I have read some of his trip reports and know that he is clearly exploring some of the bigger stuff.

What's the latest. He can be seen in print adds for Innova kayaks in Paddler Magazine, and on thier website, photo on right.

Gregg will be one of 10 Challengers in the WaterTribe Ultimate Florida Challenge (UC). He is sponsored by Current Designs and will be paddling a Stratus that they have given him for the race.

All 10 of us are previous Everglades Challenge finishers. Many of us were even at the awards ceremony in Key Largo last March when AlaskanSeaHorse made 2 statements. First, he was planing to return in 2006 to win the EC. Second, he spent that day walking around shirtless and in tights :)

This was all before the UC was even announced. I don't know if his plan has changed, but I'm hoping he's focusing on the bigger challenge, as this will be the once in a lifetime opportunity for extreme challenge and adventure.

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