Coastal Disturbance Team

🕔May 28, 2007

There isn’t much in the way of spectacular scenery and challenging terrain that isn’t offered by the north coast around Prince Rupert.

That’s what attracted Geoff Langford—head of Canadian company Frontier Adventure Racing—to the area, and convinced him to hold the 2007 Raid the North Extreme (RTNX) adventure race amid the region’s impenetrable temperate rainforest, mountains, and coastal waterways. In late June, teams of four will hike, bike, paddle, and rock-climb as they navigate a six-day, 500 km-long route through the wilderness with map and compass. For the most part, the teams will be completely alone, taking routes of their own choosing, sometimes with more than 75 kilometres between checkpoints. At the end of it all, a prize purse of up to $30,000 awaits the first team to get all its members over the finish line.

RTNX is the height of adventure racing in Canada, and a qualifier for other competitions on the world adventure racing circuit. The quality of the wilderness experience accessible from Prince Rupert will be on show for all the world to see: crews will film the action from helicopters as well as on the ground, and a one-hour high-definition TV special will be broadcast on Global TV in prime time in Canada. Subsequent showings of this program will take place on MenTV and the Xtreme Sports Channel. The race will also be featured in an episode of Wings Over Canada, a weekly TV series that airs more than 60 times a week on various channels all over North America. And PBS will carry race coverage in the USA.

“The event is closely linked to some of the activities that people associate with Prince Rupert,” says Jillian Greenwood, Tourism Prince Rupert’s Market Director, “kayaking, mountain biking, and hiking.”

The media coverage of the race will provide an excellent opportunity to expose a large number of people to the area. In fact, Prince Rupert and other towns in the north have already begun to feel the monetary benefits of hosting Raid the North. Team members, many of whom are coming from very far away, are booking themselves and their families into hotels, tours, and excursions for at least a week before the race. “People are looking for experiences all around the North,” says Greenwood. “This works very well not just for Prince Rupert but also for our partner communities.”

Although professional adventure race athletes from all over the world will converge on the north around the middle of June to prepare for the race and to enjoy the wilderness they will shortly battle, there will also be a home team to cheer for. A group of Prince Rupert adventurers have taken up the challenge of entering a competition that has a habit of demolishing the little guy.

Judson Rowse, Ross Franes, Colleen Myers, and Dean Wagner have collected sponsors, organized their gear, and submitted their registration forms under the apt team moniker “Coastal Disturbance.” The North Coast is famous for its formidable weather systems, so it seems right that the local team should compete under a banner that celebrates the climactic challenges of the area while implying a similar intensity of spirit and adventure.

On the team’s website, Dean Wagner is described as the “strong silent one with the amazing ability to power himself through anything.” He was anything but reticent, however, on his reasons for entering such a demanding event as Raid the North Extreme: “I’ve always watched these kinds of things on TV, and always wanted to be in one. This one just happened to be in my backyard—I didn’t really have a choice but to enter.”

Judson Rowse, of Cowpuccino’s Coffee House fame, agrees. “The race involves things we’ve done and enjoyed for years. These are the sports that appeal to me. If it had been, say, golf, I don’t think I would have been so interested.”

Although RTNX will be his first official adventure competition, Wagner’s quiver of backcountry experiences is wide and varied. He’s a strong rock climber and avid white-water paddler. He’s done multi-day hikes such as a climb to the summit of Mount Logan, and a closer-to-home expedition that had many of the sport elements of Raid the North: kayaking from Rupert to the head of Khutzemateen Inlet, hiking (with skis strapped to backpacks) to the snowline, and then ski touring across the mountains to just outside of Terrace.

Like his team-mate, Rowse is well-known locally as an athletic outdoor enthusiast. He has summitted Kilimanjaro in Africa and Aconcagua (the highest peak in South America), and has placed first in two ultra-marathons, the Canadian Death Race (125 kilometres, three mountain summits, and 17,000 feet of elevation change) and the Eagle 100 Mile.

Ross Franes and Colleen Myers, the other two members of Coastal Disturbance, are also avid adventurers who are looking forward to this new challenge.

No matter their previous experiences, nobody on Coastal Disturbance has any illusions about the contest ahead. Both Wagner and Rowse agree that the most challenging aspect skill-wise will be the navigation. Though teams will carry a GPS unit to use in case of emergency, they’ll be allowed only maps and compasses to make their way through the forest, unless they want to take a time penalty. Those familiar with coastal BC’s dense bush will know how difficult it can be to get a fix on a visual landmark and then work out one’s position on a map.

Wagner admits the sleep deprivation will also be tough. “When you’re sleep-deprived, it’s like you’re drunk. You have to take time on your decision-making, work it out with the team.”

“So much of it is mental,” says Rowse. “You know you’re going to get into some pretty deep holes.” Positive team dynamics will be important, with each person providing skills and support to the rest when those pits do loom. “I wouldn’t want to be out there alone,” he adds.

Rowse doesn’t think having years of experience in the race’s terrain and intimate local knowledge of snowpack levels and tidal fluctuations along the Skeena River will necessarily give them much of an edge over other, more professional teams: “Our goal is just to be the first home team to finish,” he says. “There’s these guys who train all the time for this, and they’ve raced together before…we’re a rookie team that’s never worked together. It’s a fact that the home team has never finished a race.”

But Wagner is determined: “Unless there’s an injury,” he says firmly, “we’re going to finish.”

The bottom line is that Raid the North Extreme will be a chance for some daring people to push themselves to the limit and see what their bodies and minds are truly capable of. “It would be great to win, with all that prize money,” Wagner laughs.

The main great thing though, he says, will be getting to meet members of the other teams. “Teams are coming from all over the world, people who are similarly motivated, who like to do the same kinds of things as me.”

For Prince Rupert, and the region as a whole, this international attention-garnering event will bring a welcome economic boost and a chance to publicize the landscape’s inherent natural beauty that people like Wagner and Rowse appreciate so much. “I’m very excited for Prince Rupert and the whole area,” says Rowse. “The TV coverage is huge. It’s really exciting.”

Websites: Team Coastal
Raid the North Extreme: