It was lunch time on Wednesday afternoon when John, an attendant on the Painter’s Lodge dock, called me in my office.
“There’s two handsome boys here who just showed up from Alaska” He tells me “You should talk to them about their trip!”
Well, with interest piqued and a camera on hand, I found the 24-year-old twins, Casey and Ryan Higginbotham, checking in. The story, I came to find, was that they were six weeks into a five month paddle boarding journey that began in Ketchikan, Alaska and will finish at the Mexican/US border around the end of August.
‘It was time to take a gnarly adventure’ Ryan told me, to which Casey added ‘we had just finished school and it needed to happen.’
The brothers’ began planning the ambitious trip in March of last year, gathering supplies and finding sponsors to help them along the way. Their experience on the water comes from their upbringing in Central California, a small town called Pismo Beach. As avid surfers and trained California State lifeguards, they were competent they could carry out the grueling trek, and what makes it more unbelievable is the method by which they travel. Yes, of course, it’s by paddle board, but with a bag on the front and back ends of each vessel, the boys cover distance lying down, steering with a tiller and paddling with only their hands. It’s true surfer style to say the least, and it’s an exhausting, not to mention risky, process.
‘The two most dangerous areas we’ve encountered so far were the Portland Inlet and the Queen Charlotte Strait. At one point near the end of one of our crossings we looked back to see the waves had developed ten foot swells in a matter of minutes. That alone could change not just your trip but your life.’
They went on to explain they had lost a substantial amount of their safety equipment in Alaska, and were now navigating using only a map and compass.
‘Once we made it to Seymour Narrows we decided to ask a local about the conditions.’ Ryan explained, ‘he told us it would be fine so off we went, and then about half way through we hit rapids.’
‘Basically the conditions were bad and we wound up on shore, climbing a cliff and sleeping in a cave’ Casey noted with a laugh. ‘We don’t really consider those low moments though, it just makes the trip more memorable’
But it begged the question- was there any point that you wanted to quit?
‘Nope.’ Casey was quick to answer. Ryan took an extra moment before telling me, ‘I haven’t once wanted to quit. You just take it as it comes. Right now we have some fixes to make on our board, so the timing of arriving here was perfect. We’ll stay a couple nights, get everything fixed and enjoy some civilization then go from there.’
I listened to them recount stories of friends made along the way, and I learned what moments stand out so far, with cliff jumping and cave sleeping high up on that list, and when asked what they look forward to most upon returning home, it was mutual: ‘Coronas and fish tacos’
They have a long way to go, but they’ve made it through some of the most trying stretches already, enduring harsh Alaskan weather, poor sleeping conditions and package dried meals. Now, with blues skies in the foreseeable future, the boys agreed sun will be very welcomed. ‘We’re coming into Summer months now, there’s a lot to look forward too.’
Well, from all of us at Painter’s Lodge Resort, good luck as you continue your trip, and thank you for sharing your story with us.
Follow the Higginbotham twins on:
Instagram: TheNorthAmericanPaddle or