We Made It!!

By Johna Till Johnson and Vladimir Brezina
Photos by Vladimir Brezina

Down the outside on the first day

We completed the 2014 WaterTribe Everglades Challenge in 7 days and about 14½ hours. We set no records—in fact, we were among the last to finish. But in a race in which many worthy competitors don’t finish, simply completing the course within the 8-day time limit felt like a “win”. (Plus, we got snazzy sharktooth necklaces to commemorate the event!)

As expected, it was quite an adventure: Bright sunshine, dark nights, wind, rain, laughter, tears, friendly and scary creatures, sleep deprivation, hypothermia, hallucinations… and water, 300 miles of it. We made friends and discovered many things that worked, and quite a few that didn’t.

Our writeup is forthcoming, but meanwhile, here are some of the photographic highlights (click on any photo to start slideshow):

Update March 17, 2014: Our writeup begins here.

140 responses to “We Made It!!

  1. Great job !!!
    Ciao ragazzi !
    Max

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  2. Wow, what an adventure! Congratulations to both of you. It was cool that you did it within the limit, now you have an adventure with you in your heart.
    The pictures speak for themselves, they are absolutely amazing :-)
    All the best,
    Hanna

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  3. Congrats! That really is quite an epic journey :-)

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  4. Thanks again for sharing another of your amazing paddles. Jeanie and I followed your progress every day. Google Earth showed us where you were. We got a little nervous for a while. You took our minds of the sub zero weather here in Maine.

    Congratulations! to you both.

    George and Jeanie

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  5. Congratulations on finishing. You have shared some stunning photos with us. Love the one of the windsurfer.

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  6. Congratulations! Thanks for sharing your journey in beautiful photos.

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  7. Very impressive!

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  8. Woohoo! What an adventure, well done you two. :)

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  9. Fantastic you completed, and within the time too! :)

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  10. Never had doubt you would finish. Your determination is legend. Like to hear more about your thoughts about using a sail next time?l

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  11. bravo . . . the water iditarod of the keys . . . and you did. am eager to hear the account.

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  12. What an accomplishment!

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  13. Love that swimming sea hare, by the way. Have never seen one of those!!!

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  14. Your photos were some of the BEST yet!…the colors…the sea life…the water…and the “aventurous kayakers”

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  15. That.Was.Awesome!

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  16. Phenomenal adventure – Can’t wait for the write-up. Great pictures. Was thinking of you last week, standing at water’s edge in Caxamus Park, Marco Island, “Ten Thousand Island” in view. (A brief Fla get-away with our dog from NJ snow!)

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  17. What a feat you have done! It is the experience, adventures and memories that counts. Congratulations!

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  18. Congrats on a major accomplishment! Quite the adventure…. So glad you guys were able to finish the entire distance and in good time… Cheers to your success!

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    • Thanks so much!! I know you are well able to imagine what it was like… :-)

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      • I have paddled enough to know what arms and torso feel like after a 3 full days of paddling and sleeping on the ground. I cannot fully appreciate what I would feel like after 7.75 days of paddling with minimal breaks. You the Man! She the Woman!

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        • If we had done it right, 7.75 days should have felt no different, really, from 3 days. But we didn’t do it quite right, and so sleeplessness and the little accumulated cuts, bruises, and insect bites started to take their toll…

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  19. Looks like a great adventure!! Congrats on finishing.

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  20. vastlycurious.com

    LOVE the dead calm shot and the myriad of blues!

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  21. CONGRATULATIONS! 300×2…that’s one congrat per mile for each of you…sensational. Can’t wait to read the stories that are waiting to be told.

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  23. Congratulations to both of you! Really looking forward to upcoming posts about the adventure!

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  24. Welcome Home. Congratulations!

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  25. woo hoo – congrats – and thanks for the many photos – :)
    ~y.

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  26. *glass raised in toast* Congratulations on an adventure well earned!

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  27. What a great accomplishment.

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  28. Fantastic photo documentation! Congrats- what an adventure!

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  30. Congratulations — quite an achievement! The Valley boat a surprise, a Nordkapp no less, guess I was expecting an NDK reprise.

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    • Thanks, Michael! I think Johna wanted something a little faster and more lithe this time, and more like her own boats back in NYC, although with the degree to which the boat was loaded up, it probably made little difference…

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  31. Finishing is a win. Great photos, but love that last shot!

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  32. Well done! And splendid pictures, as always!

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  33. Wow amazing photographs of your travels, congratulations on making your destination. Very cool!

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  34. Congratulations for finishing and beating your record from last year! It looks like quite an adventure and I can’t wait to hear more about it.

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  35. Bravo! I look forward to the write up on what worked and what didn’t work so well. Thanks for taking me along on your expeditions vicariously.

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    • Thanks, Taino! We’ll definitely try to provide a fairly thorough analysis of our successes and failures—very important for us to think about!!

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    • Johna Till Johnson

      Oh T… we thought of you so many times!! (Particularly when the sharks went under our boats….I bet you had plenty of sharks in PR!) Update to come, thanks for posting!

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  36. Super that your completed the course. Congrats. Thanks for sharing the wonderful photographs, too.

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  37. WOO-HOOOOO!!! Fantastic!!! Can’t wait to hear all about it!!

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  38. Congrats.. Wonderful pictures… Blessings, Lor

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  39. CONGRATULATIONS! Knew you would do it. Great journey wonderful photos.

    BE ENCOURAGED! BE BLESSED!

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  40. I’m impressed. I went to Florida over the weekend, to dive rather than paddle, but made sure to tell everyone I knew two people doing this. Most were impressed.

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    • Thanks, Julie!

      Most people we met were impressed too, but really had no clue. “Tampa to Key Largo? Can you do that in a day?” was the usual question… :-)

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    • Johna Till Johnson

      Glad you got some sunshine in, Julie! Word is that it has been dark and cold up here… but in a few more days we’ll be at equinox. Can’t wait until summer comes!

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  41. Congratulations! I’ve been following all the preparation posts (and stunning pictures that went with it). That’s really quite the achievement!

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  42. That is some achievement – especially when you consider the preparation also.

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    • Johna Till Johnson

      Thanks, Scott! Yes, personally I was so psyched just to be at the starting line that the race itself was almost an afterthought…. ALMOST!!

      But seriously, back in April 2013 we had no idea how we were going to do any of it: Get my boat, handle transport home, camp in heavily-settled Florida, paddle at night, etc. It took a lot of time, thought, and (yes) money to get everything sorted out, and that was a majority of the work. By the time the race started all that was left to do was paddle… and paddle…. and paddle…. and paddle some more. :-)

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      • I love the passion you guys have for your paddling – as I have already said to Vladimir my experience is river racing in a GP canoe then I moved on to a K2 and my best experience of all was an Open Canadian in the Boundary Water Canoe Area unsupported for 10 days inland lakes and the OMG sea lakes – health and safety would not stomach it now – ha ha – follow your dreams follow your passion – not all of us get the chance so we must grab it with both hands – when we do – thanks for responding :-)

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  43. Congratulations! Completing the Watertribe event is a remarkable achievement. Love the photos. So proud to be a part of your water tribe!

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    • Johna Till Johnson

      Thank you, Randy! Without you and NY Kayak Company, it would literally not have been possible. I cannot tell you how much I love the gear I got there, particularly the Watershed drybags! (Actually, we have an upcoming post called “gear we love” that will talk about them in greater detail.)

      Thanks again for the congratulations, and for your help and support with everything!

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  44. great photos of an amazing journey! congratulations!!!

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  46. Great pictures, again! What an adventure…I live vicariously through your photos and descriptions! We just flew home from Tampa this morning after half a week in Naples and half in Indian Rocks Beach. The closest I got to native creatures was during my visit to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary! Can’t wait to read more about your trip/race…

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