On June 22, 2009, Minnesota adventurer Andy Knapp lost his gallant fight with cancer. He will be sorely missed. Andy was an extraordinary man, in body and spirit, continually pushing himself to the bitter edge of his physical limits. His kayak and bicycle trips are legendary: twice he biked alone to Alaska—once, before the highway was paved. On one spring day, he became bored with the city and set out to see how far he could ride his bicycle in 24 hours. He left Minneapolis early one morning and cycled to the Grand Portage on the Canadian border—300 miles away! He shrugged it off as “just a day’s ride.”
The former Canoe and Kayak contributor finished the first 30-day circumnavigation of Lake Superior in 1996 without resupply. He paddled extensively in the wilderness waters of the upper Great Lakes area, Baja, Alaska, Florida and beyond. A long-time employee of Midwest Mountaineering, he is often credited with literally launching the sport of sea kayaking in the Midwest and established Midwest Mountaineering as the premier source for sea kayaks.
Some years ago, I attended a Bell CanoeWorks-sponsored canoeing and camping trip in Florida. About twenty luminaries of the sport were invited, Andy Knapp was one of them. The idea was to compare different Bell boats and share our observations. In the evening, beer in hand, bonfire roaring, the banter was always about canoes and canoeing. The one dissenter was Andy, who preferred to talk about global warming, the poor, homeless, politically harassed and those without equal opportunities. Andy was moved by people not by things. He rode his bike to work even in the dead of winter to save money and the planet. “Got snow tires”, he proudly announced.
Andy lived close to the land. He didn’t have an expensive house or an expensive car. Monthly bills were always a challenge. But this didn’t bother him at all. What he wanted most was what was best for the world, even if it meant less than the best for him. He really was a remarkable man—not because of his kayaking and bicycling accomplishments or the brave way he fought his cancer, but because of his concern for others and his personal struggle to make this a better world.
Andy Knapp lived his life the way most of us should. His legacy is one of kindness, caring and unselfishness. Andy dreamed of a better world. He is there now.
- Cliff Jacobson