Traci Martin purchased her first kayak in 1999. She has always had a love for the outdoors and being physically active and enjoyed kayaking for fun. In 2009, not long after she began competitive kayak races, Traci started experiencing symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and was formally diagnosed with RA in 2010. Now, just seven years after her diagnosis, Traci will set off on a journey to kayak 8,600 miles and break the world record for longest solo kayak journey.
Traci is a nurse and she first thought her new joint pain in 2009 was from being on her feet all day. After she was diagnosed a year later, she was quickly put on a medication regimen that has been working for her and she has only lost minor mobility. Still, Traci remembered her grandmother who had severe and crippling RA and was worried she would end up in the same state. That memory only gave her more incentive to keep active.
After her RA diagnosis, Traci was determined to keep kayaking at the same or higher pace she had been for the past ten years. She had just competed in her first competitive kayak race the year before and taken first place. She knew she had a long future in competitive kayaking and since then has won first place and beaten records in many races across the country.
Traci’s battle with RA and the recent loss of her mother to pancreatic cancer has inspired her to take this journey to break a world record. When Traci’s mother was ill, her reflection on things she didn’t do in her life spurred Traci to commit to breaking a world record. “I don’t want to be like that, I don’t want to be at the end of my life and sad I never did any of the bucket list things,” says Traci.
Traci has traveled all over the country kayaking, and winning, competitive races but her world record attempt will be the toughest race yet. She plans to kayak all the Great Lakes and parts of the Atlantic Ocean traveling 8,600 miles in 265 days through likely dangerous weather and cold, all while managing RA. “Even if you take RA out of the equation, what I’m trying to do is huge,” says Traci. “People have lost their lives trying to paddle the Great Lakes.”
Traci is hopeful and determined to complete her journey and become a world record holder. She has trained and done her research the past two years and she has met people who are inspired by her journey. Traci has worked hard to form partnerships around the country including her kayak sponsor, Stellar Kayaks, RPC3 paddles and many individuals devoting their time to help her reach her goal.
“A lot of people think I’m outright crazy but one woman from Australia with RA told me I inspired her,” says Traci. “I would rather try and fail than sit at home and do nothing, I want to show people just because you have a chronic illness doesn’t mean you should let life pass you by.”
Traci exhibits a true Champion of Yes spirit and we wish her the best of luck on her amazing journey. To learn more about Traci’s world record attempt, visit her website or watch the documentary trailer about her journey.
Traci is grateful for the support she has received from all over the country and would like to acknowledge support from a few of the 22 people on her support team: Chris Stafford, Mary Strope and Darci Winters . If you are interested in supporting Traci on her journey, by helping her camp along shore or sending her supplies, you can contact her through her website.