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How To Fill 20 Hours Of Sunlight In Alaska, “A SUP Story”

Paddle Boarding in Alaska

Can You introduce yourself and tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Rich Loftin. I am 48 years old and have always loved being outdoors. I am all about adventure and currently live in Valdez, Alaska, with my wife where adventure is readily available for those who are interested. We have three boys between the two of us and two of the three love the outdoors and adventures as well. What was it like to be growing up in Alaska as a kid?, I moved to Alaska when I was 12, and it was a big change for me coming from the Pacific Northwest where there was a much larger population. Summers were cooler, and winter’s reached down to -40 where we lived in Soldotna, AK. This led to a lot more time spent inside. What did you do for fun? Growing up as a kid in Alaska we did a lot of fishing on the rivers and lakes, dirtbike riding, BMX bike riding, played ice hockey, rode snowmobiles, and floated down the mighty Kenai river in rafts.

Rich-Loftin Paddle-Boarding-in-Alaska

What board do you own and why did you choose it?

I currently own two iROCKER boards, the iROCKER Cruiser 10’6″ x 33″, and the All-Around 11′ x 32″. The iROCKER Cruiser iSUP was a B-day present from my wife and the All-Around Paddle Board I purchased for commuting to work, hoping that it would be faster.

What’s the sup-ing season there for an average person?

The SUP season in Alaska for an average person is June-September. However, Alaska has a small demographic of outdoor enthusiasts and we paddle all year round!! Part of the geographic challenge for paddlers of the north is that all the freshwater lakes and rivers freeze over in the winter. So unless you live by a saltwater port town like I do your SUP season is out of your control.

I know we asked this before but I think it might be worth mentioning that your clothes and gear are important – what clothes do you wear and what gear is essential to you?

For those of us that paddle in the winter there are some key safety components and gear based on your personal acclimatization to the environment. For 15F-32F I wear a full 3mm/2mm wetsuit with booties and gloves and usually only paddle 1.5 hours tops. For 32F-50F I wear 1.5mm wetsuit pants, 1.5mm wetsuit socks with flat sole skate style shoes, wick dry shirt, and sweatshirt(hoody). Anything above 50F is shorts, skate shoes, and a sweatshirt or T-shirt. The leash is also a very key piece of gear as it keeps the board close in case a water sample is taken.

What’s your favourite time of the year in Alaska?

That’s a tough one!! My favourite time of the year has always been winter because the snow covers so much and the backcountry access opens up exponentially. I have always been a motorsports enthusiast but as I have gotten older I have transitioned into balancing that with Fat Tire biking, Mountain Biking, and SUP adventuring. With the newest edition, SUP, I really like summer as well!!

What’s the best time to visit: The best time to visit Alaska depends on one’s character and interests. If you don’t like to be cold then summer is the time to visit. There are abundant places to paddle, see wildlife, fish, hike, and get into the backcountry. If a person likes winter then winter is the show. Backcountry access, big mountain adventures, accessing glaciers, and terrain that is magnificent to behold!!

What other activities outside of paddle boarding would you recommend to people who come visit?

I recommend the Alaska train ride, going to Denali national park, floating the Kenai River, taking the tram up at Alyeska resort, and glacier boat tours out of Valdez and Seward.

Given that you paddle year-round have you had any issues with your iROCKER cruiser?

No issues with the iROCKER Cruiser at all and I have paddled down to about 12F.

Tell us more about your work commute. How far do you paddle, how long does it take?

Ahhhh the work commute!! The work paddle is crossing Port Valdez from Kayak beach in Valdez to the main security gate at Alyeska Pipeline Service Companies Valdez Marine Terminal. It is just under 3 miles in distance and takes anywhere from 50 minutes on a crummy let’s just paddle day to 90 minutes on a glorious morning where we stop and enjoy the sunrise, views, and wildlife.

Have you had any unusual encounter with wildlife while paddle boarding?

The only real encounters so far have been with seals, otters, and birds. Sometimes on the remote lakes and rivers, we see moose.

How many times have you fallen into your freezing Alaskan waters :)?

I have only fallen in during the summer, but one of my paddle partners will jump in and swim with his arctic wetsuit in the winter.

3 things that not too many people know about you and where you live?

  1. I do actually work!! It’s a rotational schedule for the pipeline, 7 days, 12 hours per day, and then I have 7 days off, this is a very common schedule for Alaska.
  2. The secret to successful cold-weather recreation is using the right gear.
  3. Where I live averages about 500 inches of snow every winter, and I love it, I hate rain. Haha.

4th of July in Alaska is a busy time. Lots of tourists, lots of events, like a big town parade here and music, cookouts, etc. Fireworks are lit off, but with 20 hours of daylight, it’s just a lot of boom going on haha!! I, unfortunately, have to work this 4th of July.

I have worked on the 4th of July for the last few years. But July 7th I will be embarking on an across the state adventure with most of the toys and paddling my way across Alaska!!

Paddle Boarding in Alaska

PHOTO CREDIT:
Rich Loftin – IG @loftinrides_ak
Jeremy Talbot – IG
@jeremytalbott73

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