2017 Channel Islands Expedition

                                                                          NEWS RELEASE                                                                                                                                        For Immediate Release: September 2, 2017

                                                 Tom Holm: tomholm@ecotrek.com 805-908-5161
                                              Will Schmidt: will@areyouinspiredyet.com 949-374-3751


World-Record Paddling Expedition to Raise Awareness of New Threats to

Endangered Species and Ancient Cultural Sites on California’s Channel Islands, Including the

“Island of the Blue Dolphins”


Channel Islands Harbor and Dana Point Harbors, California – September 2nd, 2017 - Researcher Tom Holm and renowned endurance athlete Will Schmidt have begun training for a hazardous Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) expedition to reach each of California’s eight Channel Islands, consecutively, in one 300+ mile voyage.  This passage, which has never been completed, has no definite launch date currently due to island closures by the Navy and NPS. It is meant to raise awareness of new pressures on the endangered species and ancient Native American cultural sites within the Channel Islands archipelago and along the Southern California coastline.   


Threats to these resources intensified when President Donald Trump issued an executive order in April 2017 to renew offshore oil drilling in federal waters - including those within the Santa Barbara Channel, adjacent to the Channel Islands.  In 1969, a massive oil spill occurred in this area, which, at that time, was the largest oil spill in United States waters.  It killed thousands of marine species, damaged numerous Native American cultural sites, and still ranks as the third worst oil spill in American waters, after only the Deepwater Horizon and Exxon Valdez spills. 


In May 2015, another spill deposited over 140,000 gallons of crude oil on Santa Barbara’s shores and into its waters.  As a reminder of that disaster, Holm and Schmidt will begin their voyage close to the origin of that spill at California’s Point Conception.  From there, they will paddle across international shipping lanes and near towering oil drilling rigs to reach the Northern Channel Islands.  During the subsequent weeks, Holm and Schmidt will visit sensitive ancient coastal villages and ecosystems at each of the Channel Islands, including ports associated with the indigenous Chumash, Kizt (Gabrieleño/Tongva), and Luiseño tribes, some of which date back over 12,000 years. This expedition will culminate at an ancestral Luiseño/Juaneño village at Dana Point Harbor, sometime in mid-September. 


Tom Holm, at age 53, sold his business to fulfill a life-long dream to study ancient mariners and the conservation of cultural and natural resources at Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) in San Diego, California.  He has since earned his Master’s degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from that prestigious school and was appointed the Lead Diver (SCUBA) for the Scripps Center for Marine Archaeology’s inaugural expedition to Greece.  At SIO, Holm developed methods to use both modern science and ancient teachings of Indigenous Peoples to preserve natural and cultural marine resources.  His research regarding San Nicolas Island, a place made famous in Scott O’Dell’s book, Island of the Blue Dolphins, upset the exclusive archaeological establishment by including input from non-academic Native elders and cultural leaders.  However, Holm’s multi-cultural and interdisciplinary methods regarding this, the most remote of the Channel Islands, led to the U.S. government acknowledging cultural connections among California’s indigenous islanders and mainlanders.  A product of Holm’s work was that, after 163 years, he found the most-like descendants of the real-life “Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island,” who was immortalized in O’Dell’s novel.  Further, it enables those descendants to reclaim hundreds of human remains, which were inappropriately taken from their graves, and rebury them on their island home.  This, in their beliefs, will enable the souls of their exhumed ancestors to return to heaven among the Milky Way. 


While at SIO, Holm wrote a paper entitled, Contemplating Oceanic Trade Routes of Southern California’s Indigenous Mariners.  At that time, he imagined, one day, retracing some of those theorized trade routes on a SUP.  The realization of attempting such passages came when SIC Maui Paddleboards (www.sicmaui.com) and Will Schmidt (www.AreYouInspiredYet.com) offered their time, resources and expertise. 


SIC’s unique commitment to maritime exploration is evident in their enthusiasm for SUP expeditions worldwide.  SIC’s president, Anthony Scaturro offered Holm his support immediately upon hearing about his quest. “Tom’s impassioned approach to use Stand Up Paddleboards to further scientific and cultural research is contagious for all the right reasons.  He is finding ways to connect with our water-bound ancestors, through our common love for the ocean, to preserve not only the creatures of the sea, but those of us who depend upon them for our own survival.  Tom’s vision, and Will Schmidt’s selfless commitment to help him, are perfect examples of how SIC Maui and our own tribe of paddlers from all cultures, age-groups and backgrounds, are all bound by water,” said Scaturro.   


Will Schmidt is a world-renowned SUP athlete who furthered his legend by paddling, unassisted, down America’s entire West Coast from Canada to Mexico.  He is the first and only person to complete such an arduous journey.  Subsequently, Schmidt attempted to paddle to all of the Channel Islands, but was able to reach only the inner five islands due to extreme ocean conditions.  This attempt reinforces the extreme difficulty of this journey.  When he heard about Holm’s routes to all of the Channel Islands, which are longer in distance, but leverage prevailing wind, current and swell directions, he offered to reattempt his jaunt, which, this time, will be at least 300 miles long.  If successful, he will be the first person to reach all of the Channel Islands consecutively on a SUP during one voyage from shore to shore.

canada to Mexico

July 31, 2014
Dana Point, CA

Local Southern California ocean athlete, Will Schmidt, has completed what will now go down in history as the first consecutive Canada To Mexico voyage via the Pacific Ocean solo on a stand up paddleboard.

On May 24th, 2014 Schmidt navigated a SIC F-16 stand up paddleboard solo and largely unassisted from Neah Bay, WA to Swiftsure Bank in the Strait of Juan de Fuca (Canadian/US border) and paddled south 1386 miles to the USA/Mexico border fence in Border Field State Park, Imperial Beach, CA. The voyage lasted 61 days total with 58 days of actual paddling. Schmidt surfed to the shore and touched down at the border fence at approximately 6:45pm on Saturday, July 26th, 2014.

Two firsts for stand up paddling were achieved on this successful attempt. Schmidt is the first solo and completely unassisted stand up paddler to navigate from Canada to California as well as the first solo and largely unassisted stand up paddler to navigate from Canada to Mexico. During the California coast portion, Schmidt was escorted by land with a safety car however completely solo on the water itself. In addition to the 1386 miles paddled, Schmidt logged an approximate 1.1 million paddle strokes and averaged 3850 calories daily. The median mileage per day topped 28 miles. The farthest distance traveled in a single day was 42 miles.

Will Schmidt paddles as a brand ambassador for SIC, Oakley, Nemo Equipment, Carapace Wetsuits, Vitargo, Astral Designs, Black Diamond Equipment, and the Swiss Barefoot Company. He continues to seek donations through his crowdfunding site to benefit active duty and veteran US service members suffering from post combat anxiety, depression, PTSD, and traumatic brain injury.

Southern California Lifestyle SUP Athlete,
Will Schmidt, completes a record-setting seven-day, 220-mile solo open ocean SUP expedition. Escorted by a 34′ Catalina sailboat, “Campbell’s Sloop,” Schmidt’s journey launched from mainland California in Oxnard and navigated to touch all five inner California Channel Islands. Schmidt traveled from Channel Islands Harbor to Anacapa Island, Santa Cruz Island, then Santa Barbara Island, followed by Catalina Harbor on Catalina Island, San Clemente Island, then back to Avalon on Catalina Island, before paddling into Dana Point Harbor’s Baby Beach.

On this island-hopping adventure, all five inner Channel Islands were physically touched upon (one twice for a total of six island landings), seven channels were crossed, with 220 statute miles traversed solo and consecutively, on 14′ Infinity SUPs with SUP Gladiator Pro Model fins.

Altogether, five SUP records were set on this trip. Schmidt became the first person to standup paddle all inner Channel Islands from shore to shore, is the first person to paddle the length of the Catalina Channel twice, and has now the highest paddling mileage in the Channel Islands, a record held previously held by Karen Wrenn at 150 miles. An unexpected result of this paddle (verified by 3 separate GPS tracking devices) was a Catalina Channel crossing time of 7:47:33.

Will Schmidt paddled the Channel Islands as a brand ambassador for Infinity SUP, Vitargo, and Von Zipper. He continues to seek donations through his crowdfunding site to benefit active duty and veteran US service members suffering from post combat anxiety, depression, PTSD, and traumatic brain injury.

The Catalina Channel

April 11, 2013
Dana Point, CA. 

Ultra-marathon Stand Up Paddler and Lifestyle Athlete Will Schmidt makes a 45.2 mile nonstop stand up paddle journey from Avalon, Catalina Island to Dana Point Harbor on April 6th, 2013. The successful attempt took 10 hours and 15 minutes and spanned the length of the Catalina Channel. Escorted by a 23 ft Chaparral, Schmidt negotiated the shipping lanes and eventual 4-6 ft swells accompanied by 6kt headwinds. Proceeds from "Stand Up Paddle Against Depression. A Personal Journey" have been donated to the Wounded Warrior Project to aid in anxiety, depression, and PTSD research.

For more information, athlete bio, sponsorship opportunities, or to schedule an interview please contact Will Schmidt from the contact form located on the left margin of this page. For edited and print ready photographs please visit the gallery in the photos section of this site.                                                                                         

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