Navy veteran paddles to break world record

    Courtesy Midwest Paddle League

    A nonprofit founder in Kalamazoo has set out to make paddle boarding history.

    Josh Flath will attempt to break the world record for farthest distance by stand up paddleboard in 12 hours. Flath is the founder of 4THE22, a nonprofit raising awareness of veteran and first responder suicide.

    He will aim to paddle for 12 hours in open water, working to break the current record of 80.84 miles in that time frame. The previous record was set by South African paddle boarder Chris Bertish in 2013.

    Flath has a two-weekend window for the world record attempt, Sept. 2-4 or 9-11. The day the attempt takes place is entirely reliant on weather. The record attempt will begin in Ludington with plans to end near Suttons Bay.

    To prepare for the historic attempt, Flath has trained between 40 to 60 hours per week during the past three months. To break Bertish’s record, he will need to paddle at an average of 6.74 miles per hour for 12 hours on a route that is two or more miles off the Michigan shore.

    “I think I could possibly complete 100 miles,” Flath said. “I’ve done everything I can to put the pieces together and at this point, we just wait on the weather.”

    Flath’s support crew includes one boat captain and eight volunteer observers, who will validate the world record attempt, film the attempt from start to finish and help manage necessary equipment.

    A veteran himself, Flath established 4THE22 in 2020 to help educate communities on the prevalence of veteran suicides and to help provide solutions.

    “Each day, we lose 22 veterans to suicide, “ Flath said. “I can’t wrap my head around that. When you put a name and face with each of those 22 individuals, it’s heartbreaking. We’re here to help end the stigma around asking for help.”

    The nonprofit hosts a series of group stand up paddleboard, surfing and biking events throughout Allegan, Kalamazoo and Kent counties to help veterans and first responders find balance and purpose.

    “The surfing and paddling community is one of the few places I’ve found that resembles the brotherhood of the military,” said Flath. “Being able to introduce veterans to the sport and community has been incredible.”

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