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Phuketian counting down to epic Mekong mission

Phuketian counting down to epic Mekong mission

PHUKET: Patrick Gasiglia is like a kid before Christmas – he even says so himself.


By Dane Halpin

Sunday 24 June 2012, 03:58PM


Patrick Gasiglia has most of his gear in order – now all he needs is his board (inset).

Patrick Gasiglia has most of his gear in order – now all he needs is his board (inset).

With just three months remaining before the Phuket resident embarks upon his epic Mekong stand up paddle (SUP) board adventure, it’s now just two weeks until the eagerly awaited arrival of his specially designed ‘Hybrid’ board, created with the help of a team from Starboard.

The board has been designed from the ground up specifically for Patrick’s arduous journey – a 1000 kilometre paddle down the section of the mighty Mekong River that hugs Thailand’s northeastern border with Laos (about a quarter of the river’s total distance).

Made from solid rotomoulded plastic to increase durability, the SUP board features deep foot grooves that will allow Patrick’s feet to sit at water level, improving stability and maneuverability.

Between the two foot depressions is an elevated centre section, about 10 inches high, that will allow him to sit down and rest during his long days of paddling, and even use the board as a kayak if required.

The board’s two fins are also able to retract into the board if Patrick is going through shallow or rocky patches.

Of course, these features, and extra durability, come at a cost; the board alone will weigh a whopping 25 kg, compared to the usual 12 kg or so.

He will then add an additional 15kg of gear – food, first aid equipment, communications equipment and his Intova Sport Pro HD camera – as well as six kilograms of water.

The addition of the gear, Patrick said, “also makes it less balanced on the board, because it is elevated about the water level.”

But the weight won’t be his only challenge; standing in the way of Patrick achieving his goal is the unpredictable, churning mass of water that is the Mekong.

On a reconnaissance trip last September, Patrick noted whirlpools several metres in diameter, which have been known to break apart cargo boats. A SUP board, he said, would undoubtedly fare much worse.

But Patrick said his biggest fear “is to be injured in some way and not be able to paddle”. Given the large rocks that lie just inches beneath the water surface, that is a very real threat.

Despite many challenges facing him, Patrick said he is well equipped to deal with all of them – evidenced by the dozens of crates loaded with hi-tech gear piled up in his home.
Most of that though – the food, water, generator and Karana camping gear – will be transported by 4x4. Patrick will be very much alone on the river during the day.

Of course, until the board arrives, Patrick is “a bit frustrated, because I can’t train with the board I will use.”

Instead, he is occupying his time preparing for the journey by spending about two hours a day either paddling, swimming, jogging, or riding motocross.

Even though he will be going for 10 hours per day during the actual journey, Patrick points out: “A marathon runner doesn’t train by running a marathon.”

The Phuket News is a sponsor of Patrick’s journey. For more information contact bambou53@hotmail.com or visit supmekong1000.wordpress.com.

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