Storytime With Doom: La Perouse Glacier & Roman’s Little Boat
Hello and welcome to The Bikeraft Guide, The Ultimate How-To Guide, History Of & Wild Adventures Stories About Bikerafting. I’m Lizzy Scully, the host of this podcast and the co-author of the book, along with Steve “Doom” Fassbinder.
This community multi-media storytelling project includes film, audio and written stories from expert bikeraft adventurers from around the world, including Roman Dial, Eric Parsons, Annie Lloyd-Evans, Huw Oliver, Kim McNett, Bjorn Olson, Deane Parker and more. In this podcast, we’ll share the interviews and stories told by these contributors during the making of the book. Enjoy the show!
Episode #1 of The Bikeraft Guide Podcast tells the story of an all-star cast of athletes–Mike Curiak, Roman Dial, DOOM, Dylan Kentch and Eric Parsons. They flew to Yakatut in 2011 to traverse the southern half of the Gulf of Alaska coastline with fatbikes and packrafts. Their goal? To reach Gustavus. They succeeded. This story describes their crossing of the La Perouse Glacier and also of the tiny, custom boat Roman used on that trip.
Of that boat, Alpacka Raft designer Sheri Tingey told us in a recent interview: “Roman was determined to take that little 10-inch tube boat. That was confirmation that something that small wouldn’t work for a trip like that. He just didn’t have enough firepower under him.”
To learn more about this trip and dozens of other ground-breaking bikeraft adventures, follow @thebikeraftguide on Instagram and/or join our email list (if you join before the end of 2020, you’ll be entered to win some awesome bikerafting swag). And, finally, be part of our community and help us launch the IndieGoGo Campaign on January 12, 2021, by pre-ordering the book! Purchasing it will help us pay contributors what they deserve. Plus, it will pay for printing and distribution. Details and links to the IndieGoGo Campaign will be announced by mid-December.
Podcast illustration by the talented Jeremie Lamart. Photo by Doom.
Transcription of the Podcast
Steve “Doom” Fassbinde (02:16):
It was an [Alpacka Raft] Scout plus six inches. So, it was a long Scout and it had grab loops on the front to where you could strap a bike down to it. Scouts normally don’t have any grab loops because there’s no room to put anything up there in the front, like on the front of the boat. And he [Roman Dial] had this really, really kind of dicey spray deck that was, you know, taped on, like welded onto the boat. You just entered through the center. It had like a V-shaped opening and you got in it and you Velcro’d it to close it up to your chest. He had this seemingly ultra-cool, ultralight boat. But, it turns out that the volume of the boat was not big enough to carry a bike, a full size fat bike with gear. And the skirt made it kinda difficult to get in and out of.
Entering and exiting it was kind of dicey. But, the first half of the trip, the first three or so days, three, four days, the crossings we were doing were short and they were not that serious that you’d have a problem. But, it’s flatwater… pretty much not any current. And you get in the water, you put your bike on you cross, and then you’re on the other side within 20 minutes max, and there’s no waves. It’s mellow… a little bit current here and there. But, halfway through the trip, things change and you have to, well you have to launch into open ocean breakers, into the open ocean. And the harder part is landing on the other side. So, we had to go around the Perouse Glacier. It’s the only glacier in North America that terminates in the Pacific ocean.
It just comes right up in the ocean and falls in. And every once in a while, depending on the year, if their glacier has receded a little bit, there’s a beach there and you can walk across it. We tried to do that and fail. We couldn’t get across it. The ice blocked our way and we had to retreat with our bikes and go back to the beach. And so our option was to either open ocean launch into the breakers, which is seemingly very sketchy. Roman did not want to do this because he also had the least capable boat of all of us, this small boat.
And this is where I carried his wheels for him, because he couldn’t take all the parts of his bike because his boat was too low air volume. And he said he’d buy me pizza if I would take his wheels for him, which I took him up on. And he did take care of it bought me a pizza in Gustavus. So the only option was to go up over the La Perouse Glacier, over the ice and all that with our bikes. It looked nasty. And so Roman wanted to go that way cause he’d traveled a lot of glaciers and thought we could do it. And Eric Parsons wanted to go out to sea and go around the glacier. It was two miles of paddling with the bikes going across, you know. The open ocean crossing may be a two-hour situation and pretty easy once you get out in the water, right? Once you get through the breakers in front of the glacier and land on their side, it’s a two-hour experience. If you’re going to push your bikes up and over this glacier with numerous, who knows what kind of crevasses, a giant show, cold, icy, slippery, messy. It could have taken us a whole day. And so Eric was like, we should go. We should launch. And there was these breakers and we’re watching the sets come in. Like, man, it doesn’t look good. Like, it looks hard.
And Roman goes, well, you go first, Eric. And as you make it, I’ll go. And this is a very Roman thing to say. And he, he said, just like that, if you make I’ll follow. And so we all pack up our boats, get ready to launch. And Roman’s like, well, I don’t think I can take my rear wheel because my boat is not capable of carrying that much stuff. Because he had a Scout, a very low volume boat. And so I said, “I’ll take your wheel.” And so I packed it all up. I had one of those like black experimental dry suits from Alpacka from way back when. No one else had a dry suit. So I was in the water, standing in the water and the breakers, helping everyone launch because I had a suit on and I could kind of like stay dryish.
And so I launched everyone out and everyone made it. Eric went first. He totally made it. Dylan followed. Roman’s like, “Alright, here we go.” No problem, no problem. So then I’m on the beach by myself trying to launch, which is kind of hard because the breakers are coming in, they’re throwing your stuff all over the place. And I’m like, all right, here’s my break. And I went and I made it, but I was nervous. And when we got around the glacier, it was like maybe an hour and a half of paddling, not a big deal. Once you’re on the ocean, it’s calm, you know. It was a nice day, but then you get to the other side and you have to land on this other beach. But, it’s hard to time it because you’re not standing on the beach, watching the sets come in. You can’t be like, “okay, here’s the break in the sets.”
You’re in the sets, and you can’t tell when the good time to land is going to be because you’re right there in this big moving water kind of situation. And so Dylan and Eric, I believe, or maybe it was Dylan and Roman had paddled farther down the beach and they had already landed. And it was Mike. Yeah, it was Mike, Eric and myself coming in. And so the other three of us were like, all right, well, and Mike goes in a very freaked out way. He’s like, “well, how do we time this?” And I think Eric said, “well, I think just got to go for it.” And we’re pretty close to shore. And we’re like, is it time to go for it?
“Do we go? Do we go for the beach?” And just as we’re having this conversation, we’re like, maybe we should stay. Maybe we should go… like the clash song. Should I stay? Or should I go. Then, I hear this kind of roaring behind me, and there’s a set of roaring bigger waves. And I hear them and I’m like, “not right now!!” And I turned around, and I paddled back out into the ocean. And these breakers come in and they just wash Mike into shore. And as I turned back and paddled out to the ocean to avoid these big waves that are starting to form, I look back and I’m like, “I wonder if those guys are going to go, and I see Eric turn back and paddle towards me.” But, I don’t see him turn around.
Because he’s on the other side of this giant breaker. But, I see him catch air and fly over this way with his bike and descend down the backside of it towards me. I was like, I don’t think Mike made it. And I’m like one, two, three, no, Mike. He’s on the other side of that thing. And just getting tumbled into shore on this big breaker. And so Eric and I are like, well, I think it’s over. Maybe we should paddle the shore. We can’t even see Mike cause there’s all these waves, you know. It’s a chaotic, dynamic situation. And then we were like, all right, let’s go to shore. And so Eric and I turned around and we paddled to shore and we just think we’re on good timing. It works. And we literally just rode a little wave with the paddles above our heads, right on the shore. The boats sat down on the beach and I jumped out of my boat and pulled it onto the beach. And Mike has the shit show. His bike got ripped off his boat. He lost his hat, his sunglasses and destroyed his camera. And it is just like a yard sale. And Eric and I just roll in on this perfect little wave and just sat on shore, like, you know, when an airplane lands and is perfect. Yeah. That was us. And you know, when an airplane comes down and like his landing gear didn’t come out and it just crashes. That’s what happened to Mike. Yeah. And he got worked
And that’s it for our show today, stay tuned. We’ll be sharing more stories and interviews coming soon.