Brothers paddleboarding from AK to Mexico for coastal conservation

Casey Higginbotham paddleboard Alaska to Mexico
Casey Higginbotham (above) says he and his brother hope their record-setting quest will bring attention to conservation efforts. Photo: Courtesy of The North American Paddle

Two brothers placed their towering paddleboards into the frigid waters of the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern Alaska on Friday with a unique destination in mind: Mexico.

Casey and Ryan Higginbotham are planning to spend five to six hours each day for the next five months covering the 2,200 miles from Ketchikan, Alaska, to the U.S.-Mexico border. If they succeed, they will far surpass the current Guinness World Record for the longest-ever paddleboard trip (an eight-day, 345-mile trek up the Florida coast in 2007).

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While for many the prospect of spending nearly half a year on a paddleboard would be a profound, life-changing event, the brothers insist their motivations are simple.

“We want adventure,” Casey told Fox News of the inspiration behind their record-breaking trip. “That’s what we came for.”

Ryan taking a moment with the #paddleboards racked up and gear stowed… ready for morning departure @barkboards

A photo posted by Ryan & Casey Higginbotham (@the_north_american_paddle) on

The brothers, both California State Lifeguards in San Luis Obispo County, were preparing to graduate from Cal Poly State University last year, rapidly becoming disillusioned with the thought of a nine-to-five job, when they decided it was time to embark on a grand adventure.

“We were just shooting ideas back and forth in Ryan’s room, and it all kind of came together,” Casey told Fox News. “And, you know how a lot of ideas kind of never come to fruition, but we just kept processing it, like, ‘All right, let’s really do it. We’ll start working with shapers (for the paddleboards), start working with companies (for sponsors) and all right, here we go. Let’s do it.'”

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But as they planned their route, the brothers realized they wanted more than to simply push their limits. They wanted to make the journey meaningful, so they started The North American Paddle, a website where they’ll document their daily progress in hopes that they can help encourage preservation on the coastlines they will be passing.

“We will demonstrate the ability for human powered low impact exploration through some of the most pristine coastline of North America, and in doing so bring further awareness of the importance to protect them,” the pair wrote on their website.

“The North American Paddle, is not just [a] historical waterman’s journey, but looks to raise awareness for greater coastal conservation.”

It’s been a cold week, but an empty beach and a rare moment of sunshine somewhere in Southern Alaska make for an epic camp.

A photo posted by Ryan & Casey Higginbotham (@the_north_american_paddle) on

And that ideal of forming an intimate bond with nature is what truly is at the heart of their trip.

“In your everyday life, there’s so many different things you have to worry about — I don’t know, people calling you, paying rent, normal things that you worry about on a day-to-day basis,” Ryan told Fox News. “Now all our day is going to be about [is] food, water, warmth, and getting to where we need to go — completing the day’s goal of paddling — and hopefully getting some footage.”

But the boys know the voyage won’t be easy. They’ll be paddling 20 to 25 miles each day while hauling 70 pounds of dehydrated food and supplies on their boards, and if that isn’t enough, they’ll have to deal with the bone-chilling waters of the Northern Pacific, which were just slightly colder than they were prepared for.

#Dehydrated_food madness! Getting ready to send out boxes to the food drops. #expeditionprep

A photo posted by Ryan & Casey Higginbotham (@the_north_american_paddle) on

“My toes were still numb half an hour after we got out, and we were only in the water half an hour,” Ryan told KRBD after one of their training paddles through a river in British Columbia.

Ryan says those conditions have led many up north to question the brothers’ sanity.

“This guy in a café somewhere in British Columbia, asked us what was on the roof of our truck,” Ryan told KRBD. “We said paddleboards. He said ‘What are you going to do with those, eh?’ I said we’re going to paddle to Mexico, and he just starts laughing.”

Still, the duo is undeterred.

“I don’t care how long it takes,” Ryan told the news station. “We’ll finish.”

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