Fresh out of the water training for his SUP expedition from San Francisco to Oahu, Tom Jones gave us a call to talk to us about his upcoming journey. But before we get into it, here is a brief background on Tom; Growing up, Tom was dealt with a hard hand and was taken away from his abusive parents only to be put in an abusive orphanage where he stopped going to school in the 6th grade. As Tom matured, he was given the opportunity to join the United States Marine Corps (USMC) where he learned discipline and responsibility and he ended up graduating at the top of his class, where he then went on to serve in the USMC full time.
When his time with the USMC was up, he ended up not reenlisting and took a job bodyguarding. Over the years, Tom found a passion for motivational speaking, specifically towards children who had been abused and neglected, like he had as a child. There, he found a way to inspire kids to overcome their obstacles and he began running marathons to raise awareness for worthwhile causes. He ended up running 121 consecutive marathons, from Huntington Beach, CA to New York.
During this time, Tom was introduced to prone paddleboarding, where he first learned of the discovery of mass amounts of plastic in our oceans, made by Charlie Moore. Soon after this realization, Tom was introduced the sport of standup paddling and ended up befriending none other than Laird Hamilton, who taught him how to SUP. Shortly after being taught by legendary ocean athlete, Laird Hamilton, Tom decided to, and completed his first long distance paddle from Oregon to Mexico in 2006. Tom also went on to paddle from Key West up the coast to New York. Now, he has the biggest journey yet coming for him, where he is attempting to paddle from San Francisco, California all the way to Oahu, Hawaii and calling it the Pacific Plastic Paddle.
Tom Jones, learned how to SUP from the best of the best, Laird Hamilton.
Hi Tom, It’s Allie from Supconnect.
Hey Allie, how’s it goin? Sorry I’m a few minutes late, I paddled into the wind and against the current the whole time (laughs).
No worries, I know how it goes...So, Tell me about your paddle that you’re planning from SF to Oahu, is it the farthest paddle that is attempted on record?
Yes, and it’s certainly the most difficult. This will be the first open ocean, deep water, ‘I’m in the middle of 1,500 miles away from shore nowhere paddle’ on top of it. Which is going to create a whole new set of things to deal with.
Gnarly. So, the idea stemmed, I’m guessing, from your talking to Charlie Moore, about the trash pack?
Yes it’s the same thing as my paddles from Oregon to Mexico and Key West to New York; raising awareness. At this point, we started a campaign around the word ‘SUP’ and I started the campaign called ReSUP, and that means: Rethink Single Use Plastic, so I turned SUP into Single Use Plastic. What we’re doing is, we are working with an institute of higher learning to create a curriculum on how people and institutions like school can re-think and use less of this single-use plastic. If the use of this was dramatically reduced, the amount of trash going into our oceans would be cut drastically. We’re targeting this first generation of kids that are environmentally conscious with this campaign and we’re trying to take it that way. We’re trying to change the culture.
When are you planning on doing this trip?
And it’s supposed to last around 4 months?
Yeah, and oddly enough, we calculated it out with the boat captain and Charlie Moore and it ended up being to the day, exactly the same amount of time that it took me to run North America on foot.
Tom, training for his journey.
Wow, thats kind of an eerie sign. Like it’s meant to be...Why May?
May is the most favorable time of year to do it. You can’t go in winter because you deal with gale force winds, and so on and so forth. April/May is when the winds and the currents are at the absolute best direction. Frankly, I plan to catch the EAC, so to speak, the Eastern Australian Current, like in Nemo (laughs).
So, how is this going to be possible with no land, you know? You’re on the open ocean with nothing in sight, how are you guys making this work?
Well, we have a 100ft. catamaran that will be our “base-camp” if you will, and it’s also the science working platform. So, as I’m out paddling the six to ten hours every day, scientists will be out conducting experiments in the area where I’m paddling, dragging for samples, capturing wild life, X-raying them, and seeing how much plastic is in them, etc. etc. So, scientists will be conducting experiments, we’ll have a television film crew out with me that are conceptualizing the brand that I created called QuitProof and the idea is that I can teach you to be quit proof. I can teach anybody to stop quitting on themselves and their goals.
But aside from that, they will be filming me overcoming my fears, nature, hardships, all of this, packaging it into a television show all at the same time we’re all on a 100ft. Catamaran. It will sail in the area that I’m paddling that particular day doing circles around me, if you will. I’ll get back on it every day and barf, because I get sea sick (laughs) and you know, do it all over again day by day.
So when you’re paddling you obviously need to sleep each day, how will this work when you’re on the boat? Will the boat be moving while you are sleeping?
We get resupplied twice along the way; once when we’re a quarter of the way into it, and the other time when we’re two thirds of the way there. At night time, the way I understand it, they will pull the sails down and the motors will go on and they will just tread water, if you will. The motors will be used very sparingly. In the mornings, the boat will drop me off at the GPS location of where I last left off and I will begin from there. The boat will also have live-streaming capabilities and will be live-streaming during this time. It will shows things like nets that I’m sure to run into, small plastic islands that I’ll run into, etc, and we’ll be live streaming this into classrooms and stuff.
Do you expect to be paddling every day while you are out there or will you take a few days off here and there to get some rest?
The only reason I’ll take any time off at all is if the weather shuts me down. Otherwise, my whole thing is I’ve never taken a day off, except for one time when I cried because there was a really strong south wind coming from Oregon to Mexico. There was no way I was paddling against it and I sat there and cried. I have to average 20 miles a day. That’s all the time I have, it’s all the money I have, food I have, and I thought that it was reasonable to assume of myself, meaning that I couldn’t make it like 35 miles per day because at the end of the day I can’t look at myself in the mirror and go, ‘you gonna average 35 miles a day.’ I can look at myself in the mirror and go, ‘you can average 20 miles a day, everyday, no matter what.’ And so that’s the reason I chose that number.
What do you think will be the most difficult thing that you will face?
Being away from my family, my boys.
Will you be able to talk to them at all while you are on the trip?
Yeah, because of the vessel’s live-streaming capabilities so I’ll be able to Skype and stuff. Other than that, I’m bulletproof. My whole life of hardship and going through the orphanage that was full of peodophiles and having to deal with that and having to deal with the idea of not having an education and all of the hardships that go along with that. When it comes to hard, bring it! That’s what I’m set up for, that’s why I do this stuff. And also, to go in and show other children that have it hard, that you don’t have to be a loser because it’s hard. I’ve learned through the Marine Core that leadership by example is very powerful. I’ve used that in my work within the community.
Do you think this is going to be more of a physical or a mental challenge?
Trust me on this one, it’ll be all of the above. It always has been, with my running and with my other paddling challenges so far.
Do you have any fears along the way?
Absolutely. I’m afraid of getting eaten. I’m afraid of getting lost at sea. I’m afraid I’ll never see my kids again. I’m afraid of falling off the board, hitting my head and drowning. I’m afraid of all kinds of stuff, but I’m an expert at overcoming my fears. You’ve got to be crazy to do what I do, but, let’s face it, I’m afraid. I’m not ignorant to the real risk. I’ve been lost at sea a couple of times already. I’ve been scared to death. But I hope you see it as I’m crazy with an intelligent plan behind me.
Would you feel that this is an unassisted paddle, or assisted?
It depends on your idea of what’s assisted or unassisted. I guess I would say it’s an assisted paddle. There’s no way to do it unassisted, because if there was, I would have already done it. If there is a way and someone reached out to me about it, I’d jump on it, but logistically there is no way you could do this without assistance. If I was to say it was unassisted, I’d be a liar with no integrity.
What are you most excited for?
I’m most excited to get started. I want to get all the corporate meetings over with and all the convincing that I can do this and just go. Also, for when it’s over and I can really get going on this Quit Proof campaign and go back into the community and work with the kids, in particular, ones that are troubled, and really try to help the world that’s around me. I really try to do the right thing.
Tell me about your training regimen that you’ve been on, if you have any, that you’ve been doing to prepare for this trip.
My whole life has prepared me for this trip, that’s what makes me be able to do it. I’ve trained my whole life fighting and running. When I did fighting, I was in my bare feet and my leg muscles are way over developed helping me to be standing all day. I still do a lot of running, thai boxing, and I do things that are very difficult. For example, yesterday I took my railroad tie and my tractor tire and I went down to the beach and put on an altitude mask and did pulling and sprints. Today I went paddling ten miles into the wind and against the current. Tomorrow, I’m very likely to ride my bike for 20 miles.
I do a lot of heavy weight training with a lot of the CrossFit Gurus and I train every winter with Laird at his house. The unique way that I train, is that I’m the biggest cross trainer on earth and I make my training mentally hard. If I’m gonna go out and run, I’m gonna go out in the worst conditions possible. I make things mentally difficult during my training and that’s how I know that I will be able to do this. I also just want to add that good nutrition is important. It takes a lot of hydration and rest and good living to be able to do what I do, so there’s that component in it as well.
Tom, using a tire tractor to train for his journey.
Tom uses an altitude mask while training to help physically and mentally prepare him for his expedition.
What type of equipment are you going to be using?
At a team rider meeting recently for Laird SUP I told them that I wanted to take a stock 12’6 board and a stock 14’ board and then I want to take a custom 17’6 board. And I want to do that because I want to use two boards that I can tell you, the consumer, that you can use the same board I did to cross the ocean.
Want to give any shout outs?
My friends, the group that we work out with in Malibu has been incredibly supportive. My Huntington Beach family and the standup paddleboard community has been incredibly supportive. I just want to thank everybody. I would also like to get a special shout out to SPZ sun protection zone, Titan paddles, and Laird stand up.
Awesome Tom. Well thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us and we wish you the best of luck as you partake on this incredible mission. Keep us in the loop of how things go!
No problem. Thanks to you guys for spreading the word about this cause!
To learn more about Tom and his journey or about his foundation, please click here or watch the video below!