Stand Up Stands Out

Markus Pukonen has taken up his paddle again – this time for men’s health.

Part of Stand Up For Men’s Health, he paddled a Stand-Up Paddle board from Vancouver to Victoria in some pretty excellent company – like Canadian Olympic triathlete Simon Whitfield.

“It was pretty epic,” the Tofitian recalled. The 140-km journey’s objective was to raise awareness for the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation on the www.dontchangemuch.ca campaign.

“The idea is to not make changing your health a daunting task for men. Really it takes small changes to make big changes in your health,” he said.

Ideas include throwing healthier routines and eating habits into the mix of a busy life, he said.

The trip took three days – the first one 12 hours of paddling, the second 8 hours and the final lap, four hours of paddling.

It wasn’t his first (oceanic) rodeo. Pukonen paddled a similar expedition from Vancouver to Nanaimo to raise awareness for the need for sewage treatment for the Georgia Strait Alliance.

“One of the biggest issues in the Strait is that the water is continually being contaminated by sewage,” he said.

A filmmaker, Pukonen is “an expedition guy at heart,” having climbed Huayna Potosi (6080m) in Bolivia, and biked 2,500km of the US Pacific coast, according to www.oarnorthwest.com.

The recent trip to Victoria was tougher, trying to keep up with world-class Stand Up Paddlers, including a current world champion and an Olympic skeleton gold medalist.

“I did, but just barely. I was pretty much always in the back. I would paddling hard and fast as I could, giving 100% and I’d ask them and they’d say they were giving it 70%,” he said.

An amazing boat crew for company and support and layups on Galiano Island (with a chef-made meal) and west of Sidney helped, Pukonen said.

He said he’s grateful to T’ashii paddle school in Tofino for supplies and training.

And for one amazing experience. “One day I was paddling along and a baby seal came and crawled on board and hung out for a bit,” he said.

That said, he wasn’t looking up at the scenery much.

“I was keeping my head down and struggling to keep on paddling,” he admitted. “After the first day, I thought I was going to fall apart, and that my back might snap in half and my arms might stop working.”

The takeaway for Pukonen?

“If we can SUP from Vancouver to Victoria, maybe someone can get off the couch and go for a walk,” he said.

Editor@westerlynews.ca