published Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Ben Friberg goes the distance on the Yukon River in Canada

Ben Friberg paddleboards on the Yukon River in Canada.
Ben Friberg paddleboards on the Yukon River in Canada.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

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Ben Friberg's Yukon River trip has been is one of the five adventures nominated for top stand-up paddleboard expedition of 2012 by SUP Magazine. The winner will be determined by an online reader vote. To vote for Friberg's trip, go online to

To say that Ben Friberg is going places would be an understatement.

Over a 24-hour period in late June, the Chattanooga native traveled farther on a stand-up paddleboard than anyone has gone before -- an eye-poping 238 miles down the Yukon River in northwestern Canada.

Friberg is in the process of having his trip certified as a world record by Guinness World Records, surpassing the previous official record of 60 miles, which was done in the open ocean.

Friberg took to stand-up paddleboarding about three years ago after more than 20 years of kayaking on the Ocoee River and other whitewater rivers in the region. After learning about stand-up paddleboarding, he began running the Ocoee rapids on a paddleboard and saw the sport as a new challenge.

"I started putting more and more time into it and eventually I was doing longer trips around Chattanooga, going 20 miles or farther," he said. "So I got it in my head that I wanted to go for something big."

His first distance adventure was an 80-mile trip from the Hiwassee River down the Tennessee River basin to Chattanooga. Friberg and a friend completed that trip just under 24 hours, and he decided to aim for something a bit more challenging.

"One of my good friends, Terry Smith ... mentioned that the Yukon River is where a lot of kayakers go to set records for distance," he said. "So I began to look at that, and the more I looked the more excited I got about the plan."

Friberg started his record-breaking attempt on June 26 just north of Whitehorse, Canada, where the Yukon River flows out of Lake Leberge. Following along in a boat was a four-person support team to provide navigation, encouragement and nutrition throughout the trip.

Stops for food were quick affairs to keep the board moving down stream and maximize the distance covered in the 24-hour time limit.

"All of the pit stops, or feedings, were all about efficiency, so I would never stop," he said. "The support boat would come up along side of me and give me whatever I wanted."

With the hard work of Friberg and his team in the wilderness and the 33 degree water, he was able to surpass his target of 200 miles to set the record.

With one record under his belt, Friberg is already working on his next adventure, which he hopes will be just as impressive as his Yukon run.

"I've got a mission I'm really excited about that I'm working on that I can't really talk about yet," he said. "It will be on the open ocean and is something that's never been done on a stand-up paddleboard."

about Jim Tanner...

Jim Tanner has worked as assistant sports editor at the Times Free Press since late 2006. He started at the Times Free Press in 2001 and worked as a news copy/design editor from 2001 through 2006. In addition to working as a night and weekend editor producing local and national sports coverage for print and online readers, Jim occasionally writes local sports and outdoors stories. Jim grew up in Ringgold, Ga., and is a graduate ...

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