Former kayaking champion Jim Kennedy is embarking on a new adventure — as part of a two-man team taking on the world’s longest non-stop paddle race.
Kennedy has partnered with fellow Irish champion kayaker Colin Wong to represent Ireland in next year’s Yukon 1000 — which as the name suggests is a 1,000-mile river marathon, from Whitehorse in Canada’s Yukon territory to the Yukon River Bridge in central Alaska.
The pair are among only 40 teams chosen out hundreds who apply for the biennial race, which must be completed within 10 days from Sunday 19 July 2020.
But they feel they have the skills and experience between them to reach the finish line within their target of eight days without rest — comprising around one million paddle strokes from end to end through some of the world’s most isolated wilderness.
“More people have summited Everest than have navigated this stretch of river,” Kennedy says.
The 65-year-old and proprietor of Atlantic Sea Kayaking is a long-time instructor and paddling guide, with British and Irish sprint and marathon kayaking titles to his credit — and who has twice competed in and won the 200km non-stop Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Marathon.
Kennedy is also known for paddling the length of Ireland with a cross-border group in support of peace upon the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.
His paddling partner Wong (35) operates his own guided kayaking company in the West of Ireland, and brings a wealth of experience paddling in Africa — from helping to open up rivers in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya, to guiding white water expeditions on the White Nile in Uganda, and being one of the few to run the Zambezi during the rainy season.
Along with long-distance river adventures in the Middle East and central Asia, as well as kayaking marathons and races closer to home such as the Liffey Descent, Wong also has experience of Alaska’s rivers which will no doubt come to bear.
Kennedy says he and Wong have “many reasons for wanting to compete in this incredible race”, not least promoting wellbeing and celebrating “the mental and physical benefits of exercise and nature”.
“Living along the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland has taught us the importance of responsible adventure and activity,” he adds, emphasising that their adventure aims to highlight growth in adventure tourism in a responsible and sustainable manner.