PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson Healthcare’s Executive Chef Arran Stark is known for delivering oatmeal via paddleboard to the Race To Alaska participants in the wee hours the morning the race begins.
But this week, the chef has something to do before he cooks up another batch of oatmeal for the crowd Thursday morning.
Monday afternoon, Stark and 120 other soloists or teams on human-powered water craft will start to pedal, paddle or row their way 70 miles from Tacoma to Port Townsend in the inaugural Seventy48 race organized by the Northwest Maritime Center.
Teams have 48 hours to get to the finish line.
The race begins at the Thea Foss Waterway near the Museum of Glass in Tacoma and ends in Port Townsend at City Dock. The first person to ring the bell will get the cash award of more than $12,000.
Awards will be presented at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the R2AK Pre-Race Ruckus at Pope Marine Park. All teams will have a tracker so their progress can be followed online: http://tracker.seventy48.com/.
Stark plans to paddle all the way through the night and thinks it will take 20 hours to reach the finish line.
“I grew up lake sailing, but currents scared me. Salt water scared me. So sailing wasn’t it. I tried kayaking but kayaking is uncomfortable. I didn’t feel it,” he said.
“Then this phenomenon came from out of nowhere. I’m blown away by the simplicity of it all. Standing on an oversized surfboard with a long paddle and stroking with it. It’s only been around maybe 10 years. It’s the fastest growing water sport in the world. You can do it anywhere.”
He said his first board and his latest version are totally different animals.
Five years ago, Stark started out on a 12-foot-6-inch-long, 33-inch-wide big slab of a board. Now he has a sleek, stitch-and-glue carbon fiber custom board that’s 16 feet by 26 inches. It’s state-of-the-art, designed and manufactured by Brandon Davis of Turn Point Design. Stark said it has a place to stash food and water without supplies having to be tied on.
Along with Davis, Stark counts Tim Nolan and Scotty McAdam as good friends who are pushing the paddleboarding envelope in the Salish Sea. All will participate solo in the race.
“Three weeks ago, we paddled 20 miles around Marrowstone Island. We started at 4 a.m. from the maritime center and when we turned off our headlamps we were awestruck by the phosphorescence. It’s those types of things — the sea life, the eagles, the porpoise. I feel a strong bond to the ocean.
“Now the ocean, the currents, and the tides don’t scare me.”
The chef will feed himself some interesting food during the race.
“I’m taking a natural, big roast beef sandwich, some bone broth, electrolytes, lots of water, and I’m gonna have a treat bag filled with granola bar chunks.
“A little chunk between my cheek and my gum will keep me going. We’ll keep eating and drinking constantly as we do this.”
Stark admits this is a big challenge but is confident in his training, his friendships and his plan.
“I’ve never paddled 70 miles,” admitted Stark. “The farthest I’ve paddled is probably 40 in a day. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’ve definitely got the stoke. We’re gonna do it.”
Stark was born near the sea in Florida, but became landlocked in Atlanta and ziplocked into the culinary world. But, somehow he instinctively knew water would play an important role in his life.
“I did some sailing at Lake Lanier, but cooking was my passion and my career,” Stark said. “I worked my way up through restaurants in Atlanta, Boston and the Berkshires. I missed out on a lot of living in my 20s and 30s because I worked a lot. I just wanted to be a chef.”
Stark is locally known for his inventive culinary skills, and for reinventing the food service at Jefferson Healthcare hospital.
He creates a dining experience not only for patients, but also for the public. He and his staff of 16 dish up three meals seven days a week, using locally-sourced products when available. The idea of eating hospital food was redefined when he came on board in 2011.
With the life he worked so hard to build, and a family that he loves, Stark now has the time to focus on his third love: being on the water.
“It’s liberated me. I’m making up for all those years I was in a kitchen in my 20s and 30s. Now I live like a teenager.”
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or a [email protected]