Nine days prior to Shane Perrin entering the MR 340 “Missouri River 340” he had not even started fiberglassing the 4 man stand up paddle board now known as “GreyStoke”. July 19th marked the starting day of the race and Shane finally got the last coat of resin on the board Thursday night. As he waited patiently for the resin to dry (which finally cured the night before the race) he anticipaed the arrival of his team. Jerico LeFort, Shane Perrin and Dale Sanders, “81” years old, formed a motley crew of paddlers.
From the safety meeting to the end of the race you could hear people chat about those crazy, fun guys on the barge of a paddle board. At every checkpoint you could see that they were having a great time, you could not even see the lack of sleep in their eyes they were just glad to be having fun and doing something that no one had ever done before. Even though this was a race they did not seem to be in a hurry to beat the next boat in front of them, they did seem to want to break any records, no, they wanted to be the first 3 man paddle board to enter and finish the entire race and have fun doing it.
Jerico LeFort “The Gnome”
Jerico has entered the MR340 4 times prior to this race and had yet to finish. It takes a toll on your body and equipment which can cause you to have to back out. Well, this year Jerico was not going to let anything get in his way, he set out to finish and that’s just what he did. His positive attitude and sense of humor kept the whole team running during the entire race, even us ground crew. His life dream had been achieved and he did it on something that no one had ever tried before. Meeting such a character was a treat and an honor as he was always full of jokes and positive attitude. He had this drive in him to keep going and going and it kept the team focused on the main goal “having fun”
Dale “Grey Beard Adventurer” Sanders
At the age of 80 Dale paddled the entire length of the Mississippi from her source to the Gulf of Mexico, and he did it in 80 days. What Dale had ahead of him was a challenge like he had never taken on before. Dale is 81 now and the drive that is in Dale would make the most athletic of 20 year olds fall to the ground. It’s go go go not matter what, from running from one van to his to load gear or dancing his way to the finish line. Dale has inspired people all over the world to get out and enjoy life and be happy. It’s hard to sit and have a conversation with Dale because he is always going somewhere or doing something but, he treated you like family when you were around him.
Shane told me a story about one moment in the race when Dale was getting cold so instead of putting a blanket on he just got up and went to the front of the board and started paddling his heart out. Shane said he could feel the board surge with every stroke he took and this went on for about 45 minutes until Dale was warmed up. Then he went to the back of the board and started paddling again with his double blade.
You will not meet very many kind and energetic people of this age, Dale is truly one of a kind and it was an honor meeting him. His next adventure is to hike the entire the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. This alone made my jaw drop.
Well, half of Two Board Dudes is based on Shane and how he is helping me turn my life into a healthy life. But some more things came up that had an effect on me when I talked to Shane at the checkpoints. For one, he was thankful beyond words and no matter how tired he was he wanted to tell you what happened between checkpoints. Second, you could see in his eyes how much fun he was having not only living the dream of being a world-class SUP boarder, but he was having the time of his life. His texts would let us know how they are doing when they would be ashore and usually some humor in between. Shane has some big surprises for next year’s race and it’s going to be epic.
Brenda & Ron
People might think that you just grab a few gallons of water and hop in your kayak or stand on your paddleboard and head down river. Well, this is true but you can not do this race without a dedicated support crew and Brenda and Ron are two of the most dedicated in the race. Brenda spent the entire week driving the chase van with no air conditioning and hardly any sleep. She was always at the checkpoints ready to give aid to all of the paddlers on our team. At one point she even took a nap in the bed of Ron’s truck just so she would have the energy to make it to the next checkpoint.
Ron was there to provide support for his best friend Nate but he never forgot about the 5 other paddlers. He was right there at Brenda’s side to help her carry the jugs of water, fix the team food and make sure they had a tent and dry place to take a nap. Working in the direct sunlight both Brenda and Ron didn’t rest until they knew all the paddlers were as comfortable as they could be.
No one could stand around Chip for very long and long laugh at some of his jokes or take in some of his humor. High on life, Chip came to each checkpoint excited to be able to make his teammates laugh and give them the positive push they needed. Coming all the way up from southern Florida I don’t think he knew what he had in store when he began the race. At one time he made the comment ” It’s hot in Florida, isn’t it supposed to be cooler up north” , well he got his dose of Midwest humidity and heat. At the Catfish Katy checkpoint he told me that while in his tent he made friends with a lovely mosquito that was so huge that when he hit it, it just walked to the other side of the tent.
From Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, Nate had a rough start to the race. As he was getting ready to start the race he rolled his ankle which by the time he reached the second checkpoint it was as big as a softball. We were able to wrap and ice the ankle to help the swelling and it was time for Nate to decide whether he should continue or not. Quitting was not an option for this military vet and he woke up on Wednesday and hopped right back on his board and continued down river. Nate made each checkpoint feeling better and was always greeted by his pup, Bo. Nate is used to big water paddling on lake Michigan and larger northern lakes, the MR340 was a whole new world and even though the first leg of the race was not on his side he made the MR340 his bitch.
From Kansas City, Phil knew what this race was and what it was all about. At each checkpoint, he would come to shore head to camp and focus on relaxing and prep for the next leg of the race. Always coming to shore with a positive attitude he knew what he had to do and nothing was going to get in his way, except when his board started floating away in Glaskow and as we were all yelling at him his only response was “It’s Cool”.
Bo “SUP Dog”
Bo was a very important part of the team, we made him director of moral and shortly after that have advanced up into the ranks of air conditioning support and beta testing. Bo it Nates fur kid and at every stop he put a smile on every ones face as he was so happy to see all his new friends.
I have gone through some struggles in the past few months and Shane has helped me climb out of some holes that I never want to go back into. I have fought my weight, depression from losing my mother and a total lack of motivation to do anything with my life. I have always helped people and done my best to cheer people up when they are down but now it was my turn to need that lift and Shane lifted me up “not literally, that’s impossible” and offered to help me change my life. SUP was going to be the answer. Then the MR340 came along and I asked Shane if I could help with ground support and he said he would be honored to have me come up and help support the team. So, Tuesday the 19th of July came and I packed my truck up and headed to Miami Missouri and Met up with Brenda and Ron and Bo. From the first words out of each other’s mouths, we knew that it was going to be a hard but fun week. Brenda quickly came over and gave me a hug and thanked me for coming up to help, Ron came out of Bo’s air conditioning test unit “the truck” and shook my hand then we got to know each other as we waited for the boys to get to the checkpoint. Well, it was early in the morning and by the time they got to Miami they needed some rest. By morning time I had the chance to meet all six paddlers and let me tell you this. To me, it was like we had known each other all our lives. Everyone was welcoming and positive and thankful that I came up to offer a hand. I did not know much about how the race worked but Brenda told me what I needed to do and that’s what I did. By Thursday we all stuck together like it was a big family reunion, we had all told little bits about our lives and what we did and trips we had been on and had lots of laughs. We were indeed, family. Thursday morning I regretfully had to leave the support team to head south to play a float trip that I have done for the past 14 years and it was the first time in 14 years that I wanted to cancel my gig. After my mother passed I have had to get back into playing music full time, help my father when needed and work part time at Ozark Mountain Trading. Working at the kayak shop has changed me as well, the team I work with are passionate about the sport and they eat breath and sleep paddling which keeps me motivated as well.
I can honestly say that this last week has been an eye-opening, and memorable experiences of my life and I am excited to see what the next few chapters brings. Chip, Nate, Brenda and Shane are already hounding me to get my ass in gear to get in shape to compete in next year’s race. Chip and Nate seem to want status reports on what I am doing and how my progress is and that to me is more than words can say. Two complete strangers to me 5 days ago and now they are rooting for me to get into shape. The entire group is an inspiration to me and I am going to fight to achieve the goal of paddling in next years MR340.
I would like to thank each and every one of my new friends for the love and care that you have in your hearts and I made a promise to do this and I am not about to let my new friends down.
You hear the term “you won’t find a better friend or friends than I have” Bullshit, You literally could turn over every stone on earth and with not find a better group of people than the 8 new friends I have met. I only have a few people near and dear to my heart and I would jump in front of a bus to save them. My new SUP family now also has that special place in my heart.
Thank you for the memories and I look forward to the shenanigans we will have in the future.
Congratulations on finishing the MR340