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FIRST TO CIRCUMNAVIGATE LAKE SUPERIOR ON A SUP

DULUTH, Minnesota – 23 year-old Jared Munch isn’t your average college student. Rather than living carefree and with no responsibilities Jared wanted to experience more. A couple of years ago, Jared decided and committed to circumnavigate Lake Superior by SUP and after two long years of preparations he was the first person ever to do so. The journey covered 1350 miles over 46 days on the lake and was largely a solo and unsupported expedition. To learn more about his expedition over the summer we caught up with Jared to talk about what his experience was like out on the water. Take a look:

Lake Superior is quite the task, what was your motivation in doing this extensive paddle?

I had originally been looking at a study abroad option in Patagonia that was designed specifically for whitewater kayakers. It looked awesome, but it was expensive and wasn’t going to help me with my major (civil engineering). I started looking for other ways to broaden my paddling experience and the idea came to me as soon as I looked out my dormitory window. I remember thinking “Why am I trying to travel hallway around the world to have a cool adventure when I have THAT right in my backyard?” At first I thought paddling around Lake Superior was just a crazy idea. It had never been done before on a SUP. I at least took the dignity of writing the idea on a whiteboard for further considerations. After a month of staring at the whiteboard, I knew that it had to be done. This all occurred almost two years before I actually departed.

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Views of Lake Superior as seen by Jared Munch. | Photos Courtesy: Jared Munch & SUP Connect
Did you train for this beforehand? What was your training schedule like?

Training? No. That’s for people with time and money haha. My “training” consisted of me frantically scrambling between school and work for the two semesters leading into the summer. I was working anywhere from 30-50 hours a week on top of being a full time college student just to fund my summer adventure. Physically, I wasn’t in tip top shape when I started. I was over prepared mentally though. I spent a lot of time in class 5 whitewater and surfing Lake Superior. I was totally comfortable being out there in some big water. In addition, I had gotten pretty good at making use of little supplies, and just being miserable in general over the last year during my “training”.

How long did it take you?

It depends on how you look at it. To me, it took me two years on planning and squirrelling away money to pull it off. My total number of days actually paddling around the lake was only 46. I left in early May, then returned to Duluth for two weeks to teach whitewater classes and raise more money for the rest of summer. I left again in June and got back at the end of July.

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It wasn’t all easy paddling on Munch’s 46-day expedition. | Photo Courtesy: Jared Munch & SUP Connect
How far on average would you paddle each day?

Over the summer, including my days off for waiting out the weather, I averaged just under 30 miles/day. My biggest day was 52 miles.

Was your adventure supported or unsupported?

Out of the 1350 miles, 1150 were solo. The other 200 miles were in the company of my dad, brother, and friends. I carried all of my food and gear on the board. I shipped resupplies of food to myself at 150-200 mile intervals.

What gear did you take with you?
  • Board: C4 Waterman Wai Nui
  • Paddles: C4 Waterman Carbon X-Wing, Two-piece sea kayak paddle for heavy headwinds, and a flatwater canoe paddle for beam winds
  • Clothing: NRS farmer John Wetsuit, 7mm booties, semi-dri wear, down jacket, camp clothing
  • Food: Lots of dehydrated food from Camp Chow and lots of Cliff Bars
  • Tent: MSR Carbon reflex
  • Stove: MSR pocket Rocket
  • Others: dry bags, GoPro, first aid kit, small sail for emergency use only, compass, gps, sleeping pad, and my trusty Pillow Pet
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Gear Shots. | Photos Courtesy: Jared Munch & SUP Connect
Hardships?

Dealing with the wind was a huge thing for me. Keeping a 14’ board tracking well in a strong beam wind is one thing, but put a bunch of camping gear on it and you will have a much larger problem. Hunger was also a big thing for me. I had no possible way of eating as many calories as I was burning. I lost 15 pounds in the first three weeks. The remoteness was difficult at times, but I mostly enjoyed the thrill of having only myself for any type of support.

Biggest thing you learned after going on this adventure?

Paddling flatwater all day isn’t very fun. You start to hope for some storms and nasty weather just for an ounce of excitement.

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Munch getting the nasty weather that he had hoped for. | Photo Courtesy: Jared Munch & SUP Connect
Would you consider doing it again?

The exact same trip? No. A circumnavigation of the lake was a one and done thing for me. I would feel weird doing it again. There’s kind of a spiritual thing about the lake to me. The memories from the trip are so vivid in my mind that I don’t want to relive them or change anything about them. I’m sure I’ll paddle parts of the shoreline again, or tour to some of the more remote surf breaks that I found, but I will not do another full circle continuously.

Do you have any other SUP adventures planned in the future?

Yes I do. Next spring I will be completing the first descent of the Steel River of Norther Ontario. We’re going to hit it as the snow is melting, which means living in a drysuit for a week and paddling lots of whitewater with camping gear on the board. Very little about the trip will be easy, but that’s what makes it an expedition.

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Munch enjoying his solo time on his 46-day expedition of Lake Superior. | Photos Courtesy: Jared Munch & SUp Connect

We look forward to seeing a lot more expeditions from this young talent and we wish him the best of luck in his endeavors. To see a sneak peak at the documentary that Jared is editing check out the video preview below!

A SUPerior Adventure Teaser from Jared Munch on Vimeo.

SUPing Mexico: Overnight on the Santa Maria

This Original story was written by NRS Ambassador, Aaron Koch. Click Here to see his bio on NRS.com 

 

AaronKoch NRS Ambassador, Aaron Koch, flees the brutal temperatures of the States and seeks winter refuge in Mexico. With girlfriend in tow, Aaron sets out on his SUP to paddle the scenic Santa Maria River.

In my relentless search for places to escape the cold, I found Mexico. A refuge from the polar vortexes of the U.S. and a paddler’s paradise. The whitewater is so diverse that you need multiple river craft to enjoy it all! But we only had our SUPs.

The headwaters of the Santa Maria River lie in the semi-desert region between the states of Queretaro and San Luis Potosi. Flowing 150 miles from the Gulf of Mexico where it converges with multiple rivers, and finally meets the salt water. The Santa Maria has no dams and all 150 miles are excellent runnable whitewater. Five canyons, miles of class IV-V big water and a 315-foot waterfall from the Rio Gallinas make this a multi-day paddlers dream!

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We recently did the most upper stretch of Santa Maria on SUP boards. The upper stretch is a 12-mile scenic canyon float with one class IV rapid. Our plan was to put on in the afternoon and camp beside the class IV. Put-ins in Mexico are sometimes an adventure in itself. This particular part of the river is a favorite watering hole for local cattle.

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Heather and I paddled the Czar 6 and Baron 6 SUPs. The extra flotation of the six-inch thick boards comes in handy when carrying camping gear and food. I carried the mosquito net, hammock, rain fly, a jet boil stove and a K-pump. Heather packed the extra clothes, water filter and head lamps.

The first day of paddling equaled to a little more than an hour. We found a nice spot on an island just beside the portage. One of the amazing things about inflatable paddleboards is how comfortable they are to sleep on. Let out half the air and you have a huge therma-rest bed. (The Baron 6 sleeps two—if you’re friendly.)

To avoid any bug encounters during the night, I strung our hammock loosely over the board. This hammock has mosquito netting built in and also comes with a nice rain-fly. It looked like rain, so we used the fly as well.

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After a good night’s sleep, we re-inflated the board, took a nice river shower, and launched for the next eight-and-a-half miles of class II. A portion of the old Spanish Silver Train, an improvised trail used in the 16th and 17th centuries to run silver from Peru to Panama, runs along the river’s right side. Huge Sabino trees, over 500 years old, lined the river banks. The Sabino tree has one of the most impressive root systems I’ve ever seen, creating incredible erosion protection. As their roots grow and intertwine they become an unbreakable shoreline.

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As we moved farther into the canyon, the riverbed became very sandy. If you’re just learning to SUP, the sand offers cushioning for the inevitable falls. There are numerous springs that enter the river as waterfalls descend on river left. I counted at least five, and all were quite a bit warmer than the actual river water. As you can imagine, they are also full of incredible vegetation.

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This section of the Santa Maria passes through the historic town of Conca, Queretaro, where a Franciscan mission was built in the 1700s. There are four more, nearly identical, missions throughout the region. At one point the river banks to the right and you can turn and see the Conca mission. It’s just visible in front of Heather above the first row of trees.

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If you are looking for new ways to enjoy and explore using a paddle board, I highly recommend this overnight trip. SUPs are the true SUV of paddle sports. With the right board and dry equipment the experience is stress-free and much easier than I ever thought possible. It’s your own personal watercraft and bed rolled into one. Make sure the run isn’t too difficult, because the weight of your gear does affect how the board handles. I found that by moving back towards the tail balances things out and makes for a great workout too.

​I know it’s still cold in the States right now, so roll up those boards, grab some friends and head down to Mexico and see us. Water temps are in the 70s and there are plenty of enchiladas to share.

GEAR REVIEW: NRS 3.8L Heavy-Duty Bill’s Bag

One of the most important things you need to think about when planning a paddling trip is how you’re going to keep everything dry. It doesn’t matter if you’re going out for a few hours on a sunny day or planning a multi-day river trip in the middle of April… you need to keep things dry!

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I best item I have purchased in the past few years is the NRS 3.8L Heavy-Duty Bill’s Dry Bag. It’s everything you know and expect from NRS including quality materials, solid construction and an amazing warranty. The entire bag is made up of a strong 21 oz. PVC/Polyester material with a 34 oz. PVC/Polyester on the bottom 6 inches for increased durability. The massive 3.8L (6500 cubic inches) of space allows you to carry all of your gear safe and dry. The 4 heavy duty compression straps allow you to compact and stabilize your gear on your board or boat. Its built-in backpack straps allow for easy carrying when portaging around dams and rapids.

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I purchased this bag in the spring of 2014 right before I took off for a 2 week river trip in Western Pennsylvania. I wanted something to carry the majority of my big and important things like: sleeping bag, tent, clothes, sleeping pad and cooking items. It held all of these items with room for more. I didn’t want to pack it too much because I was strapping it to my BIC SUP Ace-Tec Wing 12’6” and there is only so much space on the top. I also included two 20L Dry bags from SealLine and a 6L Dromedary from MSR on the front of my board to even out the weight.

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I don’t know if there’s anything bad about this bag. One thing I would say is, you want to be careful not to pack it too full because of its size it’s easy to pack more in the bag than you can carry on your back. Awesome bag and is one of my  essentials when planning trips anywhere winter or summer.

Check out this great video from our friends at NRS

GEAR REVIEW: Kokatat Hydrus 3L Tempest Pant with Socks

Kokatat Hydrus 3L Tempest Pant Side Are you out paddling in the cold weather? Wouldn’t it be awesome to get off the water, slip off your dry pants and have dry clothes on? Are you too cheap to buy a full dry suit? If you were thinking “Oh yeah” to all those questions, these pants were designed just for you!

Seriously, I have no affiliation with this company and this is hands down the best piece of paddling gear I have ever owned. They are easy to get on; you don’t have to struggle with gaskets around your ankles. If you have short legs, the adjustable ankle cuffs keep the pants from dragging on the ground. The neoprene waist band with two Velcro pull tabs creates a seal between you and the water; so that your clothes underneath are still dry when you get off the water.

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Erin paddling on the Juniata River in PA – April 2014

As awesome as they are, they do have two small problems. First, the socks are not as rugged as you might like. Wearing any sort of protective layer over them is a quick fix for this and will keep them hole free for much longer. I wear a pair of Teva sandals over them and have not had any problems yet. Secondly, they don’t have any pockets, but if that’s all I can find wrong with them, they are a pretty good deal!

Winooski Early April SUP Paddle

JJ & Erin at the end of their 4 mile paddle.
JJ & Erin at the end of their 4 mile paddle.

We’ve had our eyes on the rivers and lakes for weeks now. It’s been a long wait, but the rivers up here in northern Vermont are finally moving again! The last of the ice dams on the Winooski River have broken free and its time to paddle! With cold, high, fast moving water, large ice chunks and other debris floating in the river it’s not quite the season for beginner paddlers; but if you’ve got the right equipment and knowledge the fun can begin right now! Continue reading Winooski Early April SUP Paddle