'I'm kind of competitive': Geologist attempts to set Mackenzie River kayak record

Dan Wynne set out last week to paddle about 1,625 kilometres of the Mackenzie River in 15 or 16 days, which he believes could set a record.

Dan Wynne aims to kayak from Hay River to Inuvik, N.W.T., in 15 or 16 days

Dan Wynne believes that if he is is able to paddle from Hay River to Inuvik in 15 or 16 days, it will be a record for fastest trip down the Mackenzie River. (Submitted by Dan Wynne)

Dan Wynne isn't sure what is driving him to set what he believes will be the record for the fastest paddle down the Mackenzie River.

"Why does somebody want to hurt themselves and beat themselves up to climb Mount Everest, or run a 100-mile ultra marathon?" said the California-based geologist.

"I just don't know."

Last week Wynne set out to kayak about 1,625 kilometres of the second-longest river in Canada, from Hay River to Inuvik, N.W.T. He aims to complete the epic journey in 15 or 16 days.

"I'm kind of competitive," Wynne admitted.

It's unclear who currently holds the record for fastest trip down the river. Wynne said he's heard tell of "two crazy Kiwis" who did it in a canoe in 21 days.

Dan Wynne was inspired to cut down on his sleep by the cyclists who do the Race Across America. (Submitted by Dan Wynne)

Though Wynne got into kayaking just three years ago, he's confident he can meet his goal.

He finished a "pretty fast trip" from Hay River to Tsiigehtchic in 2017, he said, and when considering a longer paddle, thought, "I bet I could come back and just nail this thing."

Wynne's strategy for tackling the river in a little over two weeks is fairly simple - don't kill time sleeping.

I'm getting old. What do I want to do in my life that I haven't done?- Geologist and kayaker Dan Wynne

He's basing it on the Race Across America, an "ultra-endurance" cycling competition in which riders have nine days to traverse the United States from coast to coast — about 4,828 kilometres.

"The clock is never turned off and they ride through the first night with no sleep," said Wynne. After that, he said, cyclists typically sleep about 90 minutes a night until they cross the finish line.

"If you can ride a bicycle for 22 hours a day, seven days in a row, really hard, you can probably do what I'm hoping to do," said Wynne.

Wynne said he wanted to attempt the Race Across America in his 20s, but he wasn't good enough at cycling.

"I've always wanted to do really long endurance adventure," he said. The 59-year-old wouldn't let a fused and metal-plated vertebrae, nerve damage and rheumatoid arthritis get in the way of that.

"I'm getting old," he said. "What do I want to do in my life that I haven't done?"

This isn't Dan Wynne's first long kayaking trip. He paddled from Hay River to Tsiigehtchic in 2017. (Submitted by Dan Wynne)

Other than cutting out rest, Wynne hadn't committed to a strict plan before hitting the water.

He may take a nap in the early afternoons when the bugs aren't too bad, he said, and then paddle through the night, since it doesn't really get dark.

Wynne plans to write an essay about the geological features he paddles by, and he is also raising money for the American Civil Liberties Union.

Written by Sidney Cohen based on an interview with Lawrence Nayally


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