[Kelp Journal] Where are you guys from, originally? Where did your passion for the ocean stem from?
[Higginbotham Brothers] We are from Pismo Beach California. Our passion for the ocean stemmed from growing up around it and seeing the opportunities to use it as a massive playground. We would get together with friends throughout middle school and into high school and go “whirlpooling” as we called it, which meant going and climbing around rocks and cliffs when there was any sizable swell and getting tossed around like a pinball. This led to a curiosity that pushed us to explore every inch of our coastline swimming, paddling old surfboards, or swimming and climbing through caves and cliffsides. Plus there was always been surfing which kept us fairly addicted to the water
[KJ] What prompted the epic voyage?
[HB] Casey and I ended up graduating from the same university Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, I was enrolled there from the start but he did a fair amount of jumping around before landing back in SLO. Nearing graduation we both had this feeling that we had never really pushed ourselves to an extent we wanted to go to, and had never quenched the thirst for adventure we grew up with. So in March of ’15 after a few beers, we started scheming, a few oddball and less grand ideas were thrown around until we settled on Alaska to Mexico by prone boards, and that was it.
[KJ] How was the preparation and planning portion?
[HB] We trained with a Molokai 2 Oahu paddle training guide called ‘Riding Bumps’ then added on more consecutive days of long slow distance. We planned out every day using Google Earth, nautical charts, and internet research into the areas surrounding each location. Landing sites were chosen based on distance, availability of fresh water, and hazards. We ordered scores of nautical charts, hundreds of dehydrated food packs, and sold a ton of our shit to make up the expenses. Casey was also coming off a big triathlon training cycle, and I was training for a Muay Thai fight 5 days a week.
[KJ] How many times where you like, we're going to die out here?
[HB] I never thought I was going to die. Casey went a little crazy as we approached the Columbia River Bar and thought with overwhelming certainty that he was going to eat his last meal that day. It was the sudden reality shift, constant unknown danger, and personal stories of lost loved ones we heard every day leading up to the bar crossing that got to his head. To be fair I was able to step out of my reality by using the camera to document and take photos which helped. Either way, he pushed through it and became more confident in his ability to surpass mental uncertainty. I was most nervous crossing the Portland Inlet, it is essentially the body of water separating the coastal Northern BC border with Alaska, my adrenaline was firing throughout that 3 miles crossing. We were so green, heard a lot of horror stories about that place, and I felt like I had zero control over whether we would be swept out into the Dixon Entrance or not. I didn’t think that I would die, but that spot definitely scared me.
[KJ] What was the hardest part of the journey?
[HB] The hardest part was the overall daily grind, but that sort of set in deeper when we hit Washington. No single day was insanely difficult on its own, but when you’ve been on the water for three months, your body’s feeling fucked up, each day is cold and challenging, and you’ve got over a thousand miles in front of you it can feel daunting. We just really had to go one day at a time otherwise it would have felt like a fucked up nightmare in a really beautiful location.
[KJ] What was the most rewarding part of the journey?
[HB] The most rewarding of the journey was getting to celebrate each small victory with my brother, meaning making it to the next leg of the journey, getting across a daunting section and having a really shitty day and getting to laugh at it together and say “well that was shitty, we’ll see how tomorrow goes” those moments will always be some of the best. Also getting to meet a lot of different people, seeing a lot of remote and beautiful spots, we made friends we still talk to this day, that’s pretty rewarding too.
[KJ] Do you have anything you'd like to promote or share with the KJ readers?
[HB] In terms of promoting something, I’ll just say that Joe Bark makes the best damn paddleboards in the world, and he’s one of the most down-to-earth guys I’ve ever met. We’re honored to call him and his family our friends. So if anybody’s looking for a board, call Joe. If you need bodywork in the Santa Barbara area Ernie Ferrel saved us during our training up to do this. And The Gitg’at in Hartley Bay are some of the best folks we’ve met in our lives.
[KJ] What's next for you guys? Any other epic voyages planned?
[HB] We don’t have any expeditions planned at the moment, just lots of massively brutal ideas and a few fun ones that my brother and I want to do together, some of them will definitely happen, hopefully, all of them if we are able to make the time. I don’t even know if we'll film them, maybe just bring a polaroid next time.
We’re currently trying to get the ‘By Hand’ film sold, and putting in some more work with Director Kellen Keene to get it there, that’s what we’re doing right now.