The Standup Paddle Board Competition


Darcy Pierce, Assistant Hotel Manager, Safari Endeavour

It started with some friendly trash talk.

Steward Justin Billington and expedition leader, Annie Fiske bragged to each other that their department could get more crew members to stand up on one paddle board.

“We’d make you sorry you ever thought about going up against us!” Annie started.

“No, way!” Justin replied. “You guys might as well not even try!”

There was only one way to settle this.

On an afternoon in late August, shortly before happy hour on the Safari Endeavour, Annie carved out time in the busy crew schedules to hold the first stand up paddle board challenge.

Objective: See which department could get the most crew members to stand on one paddle board for 30 seconds. On hand to judge the challenge was Captain Barrett Whitten.

Not one competitor was fazed that they would inevitably and repeatedly fall into the cold Alaskan waters. All eyes were on the prize of winning the challenge.

The Safari Endeavour fantail was full of crew in t-shirts and shorts or yoga pants, huddled not for warmth but to quietly discuss strategy.

The expedition department, led by Annie, comprised of guides Kent Redell, Ellie Bryant, Sarah Friedlander and wellness specialist, Melissa Samuels. They were first to be launched into the water.

The paddle board, in which all five were crouching on, promptly sank. Their laughter filled the air as they emerged from underwater.

The hotel department was still talking smack, “why don’t you just forfeit right now,” Justin said as his team sat on a paddle board and paddled away from the ship. Along with Justin, assistant hotel managers, Darcy Pierce, Steward Carla Minnichhofer and assistant engineer, Anthony Distephano began standing up, one by one. The paddleboard wobbled precariously before it sharply leaned to one side, pitching the whole team into the water. This led to more laughter and more smiles.

The crew on board, as well as delighted guests, heard the cacophony as both teams excitedly shouted out new strategies, working quickly to stand up and helping the next teammate do the same. Both teams were unable to get more than three people standing at once and both teams could not stand for more than 10 seconds. They toppled back into the water again and again. On board, cameras clicked, guests cheered and Captain Barrett took notes.

Full paddle board

All the members of team Expedition and team Hotel were soaked to the bone but still grinned ear to ear. After about 20 minutes, Kent, Ellie and Melissa, knowing a thing or two about hypothermia, swam back to the fantail before any symptoms set in. Carla peeled away too, grabbing a third paddle board to enjoy practicing her signature paddle board headstand. The challenge seemed over.

That was when Annie and Sarah called the rest of team Hotel over for one last attempt.

“I just want to see if we can achieve our goal, even if that means combining teams,” explained Annie.

Making an X with the two boards, Annie, Sarah, Justin, Darcy and Anthony carefully helped each other up. Holding each other at the biceps, some with teeth chattering, the five of them remained standing for what seemed like longer than their objective of 30 seconds. Their balance was so steady that some victoriously raised an arm to the clear sky.

Last Attempt on the paddle boards

The stand up paddle board challenge was an invigorating and outrageously fun activity for everyone and it held a takeaway theme.

“Both teams failed on their own,” said Annie reflecting on the competition. “But when we joind together, we succeeded.”

Collaboration not only made the challenge successful, it also continues to pervade daily operations, not only on the Safari Endeavour, but for all vessels in the UnCruise fleet.

It takes teams working together to turn a fresh, exciting idea into a magical and memorable reality.

And who was the winning team? Kent was asked this very question by a guest after dinner. He smiled and shared Captain Barrett’s judgment. It was a tie.

Create your own unforgettable experiences in Alaska next summer!

Loading Conversation