Duluth man breaks Boundary Waters speed record on stand up paddleboard
On Sept. 10, Duluth paddler Mike Ward completed a 250-mile traverse of the Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness from near International Falls, MN eastward to Lake Superior via the Grand Portage in 5 days, 10 hours and 31 minutes.
Ward started at Sha Sha Resort outside of International Falls on the western edge of Voyageurs National Park on Sunday, Sept. 4 at 6:23 a.m. and paddled on average 42 miles per day along the border of the US and Canada for six days, finishing with a 12 mile trip on the Pigeon River and 8.5 mile trail hike on the Grand Portage Trail by Friday, Sept. 10 at 4:54 p.m.
This time beat the existing stand up paddleboard record from Scott Baste by 18 hours, about six later from when Baste’s time of 6 days, 5 hours was recorded earlier that same day. Florida stand up paddleboard athlete Baste had set a time of 7 days, 10 hours in September 2020 and lowered his time in 2022.
Ward used a 14-foot racing-style stand up paddleboard along with lightweight camping gear and food to make the traverse. To train, he paddled on Lake Superior, portaging his gear from his East Hillside Duluth home to Leif Erickson Park. Ward also raced in two paddling events and made two shorter simulation trips to the BWCA over the summer.
The route taken, known as the Border Route or Kruger-Waddell Challenge is a historic indiginous travel corridor used for centuries, and a well-traveled fur-trading route for voyageurs transporting furs from the North American wilderness.
In the modern day, a paddling team consisting of Verlen Kruger and Clint Waddell found a record of a historic speed attempt by fur trader Sir George Simpson and recreated the route in the 1970s.
Since then, many records on the same course have been set and broken by solo canoe paddlers, tandem canoe teams, and stand up paddleboards. Canoe records are much faster than stand up paddleboard, with most solo and team records under 70 hours.
More information about Ward’s trip can be found at http://www.mikeward.cool/cool-adventures/bwca22/.