By Hand (Kellen Keene, 2020): USA

Reviewed by Kate Marsden. Viewed at the SBIFF 2020.,

Dear Ryan and Casey Higginbotham,

I thoroughly enjoyed witnessing and learning about your astounding completion of this feat. In the words of Kelly Slater, prone paddling 2,200 miles from Alaska to Mexico, without support-“It’s like summiting Mount Everest for the first time”. You did this with no support boats, no paddles, and not a thing like this for any guidance of how to go about this. I admired your strength and how your unbreakable bond of brotherhood got you through this journey. I find it beautiful how you managed to escape the overwhelmingly excessive lifestyle that most Americans lead and reconnect with nature, like humans are meant to.

Now, while 18′ paddle boards may seem like sturdy transportation devices-in the face of dangerously swirling giant whirlpools, perhaps some of the strongest currents in the Pacific ocean and attempting to surf your way out of massive waves which paddle boards are completely not meant for-the odds are not in your favor. It’s incredible how you fit all of your supplies in two dry bags of gear each and that was all you brought with you, along with a camera for each of you.

It’s also amazing how you respected and revered you are by the biggest names in extreme water sports and enthusiasts like previously mentioned Kelly Slater, Jimmy Chin and Jamie Mitchell. Chin says that, “As far as expeditions go, its got to be up there as one of the most difficult trips of any kind.” Mitchell commented, “When there’s a chance you may get eaten by a shark or bear, or fall off your board and get hypothermia, I think that says enough about what the commitment level of this trip meant.”

The team behind this project is also inspiring and I’m sure very uplifting during this unique, beautiful, stressful and difficult time of your lives. Director Kellen Keene cares about his craft so much. He worked on this project for over four years which I’m sure means a lot to you both.

Your backstory is also just a really interesting one because little did you know that your youth’s in Pismo Beach would help you for this awesome expedition you would embark on in the future. Your active lifestyles that included Casey working as a lifeguard at Oceano Dunes State Park while also training in various martial arts, competing in a multitude of physical competitions including Iron Man World Championships while also focusing on your Political Science studies on Counter Terrorism.

Ryan also lifeguards at Oceano Dunes State Park as well and spends his summers working Wild Sockeye Salmon Runs in Bristol Bay, Alaska. It’s cool to see how you both knew that even though Ryan’s college studies were focused on landscape architecture, that you both would pursue an untraditional path. Life after school for you both focuses on passion projects, Muy Thai kickboxing, ultra marathons, and various forms of self-manufactured physical suffering.

All in all, your strength (physical, mental and emotional) is amazing, so admirable and makes me want to get back out there into the wild unknown.


Kate Marsden


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