Race to Alaska 2019

Yes, my bio is online Race To Alaska by Northwest Maritime Center ! Serious business. If you only glance over it and the words ‘severed toe’ gets stuck in your head, it’s not mine they are talking about.

Team Extremely Insain

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Team members: Alex de Sain
Hometown: Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, Netherlands
Race vessel: Airboard SUP
LOA: 17.6′
Human propulsion: Paddle
Connect: facebookinstagramwebsite

The key is relative greatness.

More than CGI, more than feminist cleavage, and the oversimplification of ‘China,’ there’s a reason superhero movies are the only thing killing it in the box office these days. Our theory: in a social media world where highlight reels are the norm, superhumans are the few who can punch through the Life is Good standard of our collective Insta feed. If our day to day was as good as we are online, we’d be the master race; a chicken in every pot, every closet a Kondo, every man an Aquaman. If we filled our onlines with the cubicle lunch/mid-commute nail clipping/secret toilet phone call moments that captured the baseline of our actual reality, we could occasionally be our own superheroes—until we met Team Extremely Insain.

Low country by birth, there doesn’t seem to be a metaphoric mountain high enough for Team Extremely Insain’s Dutch mastery. Special forces in the Dutch army (Yes, they have one.), sea survival and lifeguard training—trying to understand the base level Aquaman WTF factor of Team Extremely Insain is like trying to check if the sun has the flu with a standard thermometer. Before you get close enough to get a reading the thing will melt like a surrealist clock. Pasta goes limp after 12 minutes, clocks get surrealist limp after 69 hours and 45 minutes of proximity exposure to Team Extremely Insain’s hard-boiled presence. 69:45? The exact time (in a row) it took him to SUP the 750 miles of the Yukon River Quest…or possibly the 1,000 miles of the Yukon 1000. Honestly, we get them confused.

They are both paddled races on the Yukon River. One is billed as the world’s ‘longest annual paddle race,’ the other as the world’s ‘longest canoe race’—both of them seem effing brutal. Both start in Whitehorse, but the finish lines are 250 miles apart. One ends in the middle of nowhere that is Dawson City where the local sport is drinking alcohol garnished with a severed toe (we did not make that up); the other ends in the middle of nowhere at a comparatively hygienic highway bridge north of the Arctic Circle. How far north? It’s paradoxically 60 miles north of a town named ‘North Pole’ (No, not the Santa one. Yes, we did call.) We get the races confused partly because they seem like the same thing, and partly because Team Extremely Insain earned his god-given name by SUPing the Yukon River Quest and the Yukon 1000 back to back in 2018; 2,315 km in the bear-infested Yukon River over the course of a month…in the same year he also SUP’d the Ganges. Our clock goes limp just thinking about it.

Pared down attempts at anything demand respect. Mountain climbing: hard. Free climbing: ridiculous. An unsupported SUP is arguably R2AK’s take on free soloing, and while Team Extremely Insain’s bid to SUP the R2AK isn’t the first, his bid for relative greatness is notable in that he’s removed as much of the paddleboard as possible. It’s roughly the same length as Karl Kruger’s jaw dropper of a SUP finish in 2017, but in a double down bid for ‘less = impressive’ glory, he’s removed all the insides. When he gets to Ketchikan, he’ll be the first to do it on a hollow board, filled with air…meaning he could also be the first to make it part of the way on a board filled with water, such is the gamble for greatness.

Welcome to the R2AK, Team Extremely Insain. May your hollow victory redefine the term.

photo by Leonardo Antonio Avezzano