Extreme Stand-Up Paddleboarding: The Northwest Passage

It won’t just be the Arctic Cowboys attempting to push through the legendary Northwest Passage under human power this season. Canadian Karl Kruger has set off to paddle the 3,000km archipelago on a stand-up paddleboard.


While the Arctic Cowboys (West Hansen, Jeff Wueste, and Rebekah Feaster) will paddle kayaks from east to west, Kruger’s route is reversed. Kruger set off from the small hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk, in the Inuvik region of Canada’s Northwest Territories on July 25, heading east.

A west-to-east route allows for an earlier start because the ice along the Northwest Territories’ coastline melts earlier. However, the early start is offset by the risk of sea ice derailing an expedition at around the two-thirds mark of the journey, along the shores of Somerset Island. Those starting in the east must start later but have a better idea of the ice conditions they will face during that critical stretch.

Canada’s Weekly Regional Ice Chart showing ice concentrations. Kruger’s position (two days ago), is circled. Photo: Karl Kruger

A three-year delay

Kruger had originally planned to SUP the passage three years ago. He headed north, with his SUP and gear packed, but eventually postponed his trip because of a combination of logistical concerns regarding food caches and the sea ice melting slower than he anticipated. His plan to start in July 2020 was undone by COVID and a one-year delay became three.

The early going has been slow, but steady. Kruger encountered “a strong headwind and lots of chop,” as he left Tuktoyaktuk. He is carrying three weeks’ worth of supplies on the SUP and his shore support estimates he is carrying roughly 70kg of kit, including a shotgun and bear fence to deter curious camp visitors. Kruger recently made two big crossings, of 88km and then 65km, but has a few issues with his board. There’s a minor leak (which adds weight as the board takes on water) and he is already on his reserve fin after the first broke.

Kruger with a broken fin. Photo: Karl Kruger


Currently, high winds have forced Kruger to do more pulling than paddling. He has customized his board to convert into a sort of sled, allowing him to slip on a harness, grab some trekking poles, and drag his gear along the shore when necessary. This will be slow going and he’ll be hoping the winds let up soon and he can get back on the board.

Martin Walsh

Martin Walsh is a writer and editor for ExplorersWeb.

Martin has been writing about adventure travel and exploration for over five years.

Martin spent most of the last 15 years backpacking the world on a shoestring budget. Whether it was hitchhiking through Syria, getting strangled in Kyrgyzstan, touring Cambodia’s medical facilities with an exceedingly painful giant venomous centipede bite, chewing khat in Ethiopia, or narrowly avoiding various toilet-related accidents in rural China, so far, Martin has just about survived his decision making.

Based in Da Lat, Vietnam, Martin can be found in the jungle trying to avoid leeches while chasing monkeys.