Canadian sea kayaker Joe O’Blenis pulls no punches when asked why he’s planning to endure over two weeks of 40- to 45-mile-long paddling days around British Columbia’s Vancouver Island this summer: It’s to reclaim a speed record he set in 2007 by lapping the island’s 750-mile perimeter in 23 days. Barely a year later, British superpaddler Sean Morley eclipsed the Canadian’s record by nearly six days. “I wouldn’t be going if I didn’t think I had a shot at the record,” says the native of Thunder Bay, Ontario. “It’s that stupid competitive spirit in me.”
O’Blenis, 45, has an impressive list of long-haul paddling accomplishments to his credit, including a single season, 3,750-mile cross-Canada canoe trip in 2004 and several top finishes in the 460-mile-long Yukon River Quest marathon race. In 2003, he paddled 170 miles in an attempt to set a new world record for distance paddled in 24 hours. He’s planning to depart the city of Nanaimo or Comox on Vancouver Island’s east coast (part of the Inside Passage) in mid-June to take advantage of the longest daylight hours of the year.