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Find out what it’s like to paddle from Siberia to Alaska

By gbaconqz
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Sonya Baumstein just became the first person to ever cross the Bering Strait on a stand-up paddleboard. And she’s already moving on.

Her next adventure will take her from Japan to San Francisco, across the North Pacific. That’s 5,000 miles. And this time she’s rowing. She’s about seven months away from that expedition. Her team is packing food for 180 days.

After that she’ll take on an even bigger challenge: circumnavigating the globe. From San Francisco she’ll bike across the United States, row the Atlantic, bike the roads of Europe, and either kayak, bike, or paddleboard past Russia and China.

Not many people find themselves floating in the narrow body of water that separates the United States from Russia. Then again, not many people consider themselves a professional adventurer.

The Bering Strait is a 58-mile-wide stream of water between Alaska and Siberia. She decided she wanted to paddleboard across it because “people say it’s something that can’t be done.” She would be able to float in areas that no boat can reach, and see parts of the Arctic that have never been explored by anybody.

For Sonya, “something that can’t be done” is exactly what she wants to do. She had already checked off mind-boggling quests–like rowing the Atlantic on a team (that took 56 days), and biking 1,800 miles from Mexico to Seattle.

The Bering Strait isn’t exactly friendly waters; there’s a reason why it’s not a regular destination for adventure travelers. In the winter it’s covered by ice, and when it’s not, it’s about 35 degrees cold–enough to give anyone hypothermia within minutes. Don’t look down, either: it can be as deep as 165 feet.

Sonya started the trek by taking a boat ride to the Russian side of the strait once the conditions were clear enough and the intense wind had died down. She kneeled on her paddleboard and started moving slowly toward the United States, across the only ocean gateway between the Pacific and Arctic oceans. Then she stood up and stared straight ahead, moving her paddle from side to side, ever so slowly pushing herself toward land.

The hours passed. They would take up almost half a day. “If I had known it would have been 11 hours, it would have been really unfun. You can’t think about it,” she says. “I just take it one stroke at a time.”

As her board slid up to the Alaskan shore, she knelt there in place, her hands on the board, facing down as the waves rolled in around her.

“The moment that I touched the beach, knowing I did what I set out to do, was just incredible,” she says. “I just felt an overwhelming sensation of happiness that I had stuck it out.”

That sensation pushes Sonya to take on increasingly risky challenges. Her list of future adventures goes on: sailing around the Arctic Circle on a handmade wooden boat, sailing around the world with just one other partner, and hiking the Great Wall of China.

“There’s so much more,” Sonya says. “There’s always something left to be explored. There’s always something new. What drives me is, there’s something around every corner that I haven’t seen yet.”

This is an Outside & Land Rover original series. Learn more at http://www.outsideonline.com/driven, or visit the full Driven series at http://landroverusa.com/driven

This article was produced on behalf of Land Rover by the Quartz marketing team and not by the Quartz editorial staff.


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