By: Mike Libecki and Victoria Ortiz
It’s not one of those things your mother warns you about. But Mike Libecki’s mom probably never thought she’d have to say “Be careful paddleboarding with polar bears, honey.”
As part of Mike Libecki’s trip to Greenland last summer to climb two first ascents, he paddleboarded 80 miles through sea ice, around glaciers, and next to some of the largest carnivores on the planet.
Libecki has SUPed with polar bears before and been around more than 80 polar bears in the wild. “It’s an amazingly powerful feeling, almost a spiritual experience to be near these powerful god-like beasts,” says Libecki.
Photo credit: Mike Libecki
“But, logistically, how do you SUP with polar bears without them knocking you over and eating you?” Even as I ask I feel embarrassed, like that question should have come up in biology class.
“Well, first off, I’m on a paddleboard so I’m way faster than they are. If I felt in danger I could certainly get out of there quickly,” he rationally explains. “But I also wasn’t that close to them. My goal is to document and bring back information about the bears and to enjoy their beauty, but it’s important not to stress them out.”
Part of that documentation includes recording the experience with 360 degree cameras and brand new virtual reality technology to share the experience with the world. Soon, students in biology class can also paddleboard with polar bears, through Libecki’s eyes. “If I can get people to feel these powerful beautiful moments, that’s a way I can get people to care.”
Mike Libecki is a National Geographic Explorer and longtime Adventure Scientist. This was his tenth expedition to Greenland, out of nearly 70 global expeditions. In addition to climbing two big wall first ascents and paddleboarding with polar bears, he gathered several water and scat samples for Adventure Scientists.