Adventure America Destinations

Meet the Twin Brothers Who Paddleboarded From Alaska to Mexico—By Hand

By now there’s a reasonably good roadmap for learn how to do a groundbreaking expedition. You begin together with your high-profile endorsements, line up your big-money sponsors, formulate a media plan. And then you definately do the expedition.

Not Ryan and Casey Higginbotham. The 25-year-old twin brothers began with the journey, paddling 2,200 miles from Southeast Alaska to the Mexican border in 2016. Final fall they added one other 1,100 miles to the tip of Baja California.

Now they’re elevating cash for a feature-length movie in regards to the expedition, with the assistance of among the largest names within the surf and journey filmmaking worlds. Browsing legend Kelly Slater makes an look, commenting on the preponderance of white sharks alongside their route, however Jimmy Chin, the Oscar-winning director of Free Solo, brings the cash quote: “The chopping fringe of journey means doing issues that no different people have executed earlier than.”

“The chopping fringe of journey means doing issues that no different people have executed earlier than.”

Precisely. A handful of kayakers have paddled from Alaska to Mexico. Canoeing legend Verlen Kruger did too, although it nearly killed him. However they used paddles. The brothers had solely their fingers for propulsion.

The boys initially deliberate to make use of lifeguard rescue boards, however these craft have been just too small to hold the mandatory gear and provisions. So that they used 18-foot susceptible paddleboards, kneeling or mendacity flat on their bellies however all the time paddling by hand. Therefore By Hand, the identify of their movie undertaking with director Kellen Keene and their Instagram deal with, @byhandproject.

I messaged them they usually known as again inside the hour, each of them on a speakerphone, speaking over one another, ending sentences, interjecting particulars. They advised me they’d reached out to some potential sponsors, however that was lengthy earlier than the likes of Slater and Chin have been singing their praises.

“We might e-mail firms and search for sponsorship and they’d ask what have you ever executed earlier than, and we’re like ‘Effectively, nothing,’” Ryan stated.

“Nobody would contact us,” Casey added. “They’d be like, ‘It sounds actually harmful however you guys haven’t executed something like this. You’re going to fail.’”

Casey Higginbotham, grinding south. @byhandproject

So that they saved their cash from lifeguarding, bought off most of their worldly items and drove to Alaska with a pair of paddleboards on their truck. They every stowed 70 kilos of drugs into drybags, strapped them to their decks, and began south from Ketchikan in March, 2016.

Did anybody imagine they’d pull it off?

“A few mates,” Ryan stated. “People who knew us fairly effectively. These are the people who thought we have been going to make it.”

What about household?

“I don’t suppose they knew,” Casey answered. “I don’t suppose they actually understood what it was going to be like.”

In equity, nobody knew what to anticipate, not even Ryan and Casey. That, in any case, was the purpose. The brothers wished to do one thing nobody else ever had, they usually needed to do it on wages from lifeguarding and Ryan’s seasonal fishing work. Paddleboarding from Alaska to Mexico was the one factor they might consider that checked all these bins.

“It’s such a small world with the know-how now we have now,” Ryan stated. “However you’ll be able to nonetheless discover locations off the grid that push you to your restrict.”

“We have been simply dedicated to this insane concept, and never quitting,” Casey added.

“At first we have been anxious about bears, however that’s the least of your worries on the market,” his brother added. The boys carried a 12-gauge shotgun and field of additional shells, however shortly discovered the actual problem was on the water, and in their very own minds.



“There’s this fixed bodily beat down, however the physique is superb. You do one thing for 10 days in a row and your physique adapts and it turns into a norm for you. So the hardest half is simply the every day psychological grind,” Ryan stated.

The primary 1,000 miles or so have been within the Inside Passage, a seemingly interminable stretch of temperate coastal rain forest in Southeast Alaska and British Columbia, most of which is sheltered from the brunt of the North Pacific swell. They considered a shorter route alongside the uncovered west coast of Vancouver Island, however reconsidered on the recommendation of a salty business fisherman. “He stated in case you keep inside you may make it, however in case you go outdoors you’re assured to die,” Ryan stated.

The brothers stayed within the island’s lee, however as soon as they handed its southern tip they confronted situations on Washington’s open coast that, for probably the most half, have been indistinguishable from these the previous fisherman prophesied would kill them.

Every morning they punched out via heavy surf, and every afternoon confronted an much more precarious touchdown with gear on their decks and fatigue of their shoulders. In such situations browsing ashore is out of the query, they stated.

“It’s important to time it and are available and in between the waves,” Casey stated.

“We’re each lifeguards. We spend quite a lot of time watching the ocean, and grew up browsing and being within the water on a regular basis,” Ryan stated. “So that you’ve simply received to time it. You watch the water and wait to your probability.”

“And it doesn’t matter what you’re finally going to get caught,” Casey added.

“A wave took me one break day of Washington after we had that first huge swell. I felt like I used to be hanging onto a 100-pound torpedo,” Ryan stated. “I simply needed to go off one breath and simply maintain till I hit the sand.”



I requested in the event that they broke something.

“We broke every part,” Casey answered. “We broke the primary two boards in half. We broke the racks we mounted on high for the drybags. Fins break off, rudders bend and break. And that’s all coming into and exiting surf.”

The drive to climb greater in a tree, bounce from an even bigger cliff, do probably the most pushups, run sooner and farther—has by no means gone away. The journey has merely channeled it in a brand new path.

The boards broke someplace on the Oregon coast, however I didn’t press for particulars. I used to be extra within the brothers’ metaphorical journey. The trailer hints at a sibling rivalry on everlasting high-simmer. I requested if it ever boils over, and the brothers launched into tales of childhood wrestling matches, blood on the kitchen ground, and the time in highschool when Ryan popped his chest at Casey. Fingers flew, and one in every of them (I didn’t ask which) ended up with a concussion.

“We’re smarter than that now,” says Casey, however that sense of competitors—the drive to climb greater in a tree, bounce from an even bigger cliff, do probably the most pushups, run sooner and farther—has by no means gone away. The journey has merely channeled it in a brand new path.

That’s the coming-of-age story that filmmaker Kellen Keene has layered with the journey story. Keene was a type of few mates who by no means doubted them. He grew up browsing with Ryan and Casey in Pismo Seaside, California and has been engaged on the movie so long as they’ve. He already has a tough minimize, together with these interviews with Kelly, Chin, and 10-time world paddleboard champion Jamie Mitchell.



Keene made these connections via his movie work (“they’re mates of mates,” Ryan stated) and the boys nonetheless appear a bit overwhelmed by the eye of such legends. “From the surface it’s nice validation, however internally it’s actually neat as a result of all these guys are masters in what they do,” Ryan stated.

Mitchell was taken with the mix of endurance and dedication their expedition demanded—parts he’s grown to understand in his twin careers as paddleboard racer and big-wave charger. If the Kickstarter makes its aim Keene will be capable to polish the movie to a excessive sheen, fund a pageant marketing campaign and maybe dealer a theatrical launch. Those that kick in now will get their very own copy of the movie, an invite to journey alongside on an journey that Chin calls “some of the troublesome journeys of any variety,” and punch their ticket for the metaphorical journey as effectively.

“The movie dives into the character progress that developed from this concept. We begin out younger and inexperienced and we’re simply type of studying to work as a workforce via the adversity of the journey,” Ryan stated. “I feel folks will actually be capable to relate to that after they see the movie. I feel individuals are going to be blown away.”

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