SAN DIEGO — Will Schmidt has become a pioneer of sorts in the stand up paddle board world and continues to make waves, hoping to find redemption in the Channel Islands.
Schmidt spends a lot of time in the ocean, paddling from one destination to another.
In 2014, he became the first person to solo stand up paddle board from Canada to Mexico unassisted, some 1,300 miles across 58 days.
“I had a makeshift rack on the board that I carried all my gear on with me,” Schmidt said. “Meals ready to eat, so military pre-packaged food. I desalinated my own water. I didn’t stay on the board overnight. Every night I had to find my way into shore and find a place to sleep.”
The 39-year-old says overcoming the solitude on the water was difficult and exhausting, but with a little music and soul searching, the former Marine learned to endure.
“The military really trains your mind to be brave and face danger against all odds and really, when it comes to athleticism and things like that, it’s really all mind over matter,” Schmidt said. “Your body is going to get tired and you’re going to get fatigued and doing expeditions or any kind of endurance is really about getting used to being uncomfortable all the time because until your body stops working, you’ve still got something left in you.”
Six years ago, Schmidt paddled to five of the eight Channel Islands before weather conditions forced him to cut the attempt short. Since then, he says it’s always been a goal to go back and complete the journey and come October he’ll get a chance to do just that.
“Having tried it once, not even touch the water on the second time, this is something that I’ve jokingly said to people it’s live or die,” Schmidt said. “I either make it or you just don’t hear from me again.”
Unlike his previous expedition, the 325-mile open water trek through the Channel Islands requires Schmidt to have a chase boat for assistance.
“From Canada to Mexico, I was maybe two or three miles from shore,” Schmidt said. “I knew if I need help I could get into shore and someone could come assist me. There’s going to be times during the Channel Islands trip where I’m 70 miles off shore and in the middle of a channel with no island, sometimes 25 miles in any direction.”
Another challenge he’s determined to finish.
“It’s been the only thing I’ve thought about for the last six years so of course it would be a dream for me to accomplish this,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt plans to attempt the paddle sometime in early October.