High Fives Foundation athlete to attempt fastest paddle around Lake Tahoe | SierraSun.com

High Fives Foundation athlete to attempt fastest paddle around Lake Tahoe

Special to the Sun

On March 5, 2010, Incline Village native Grant Korgan was snowmobiling in the Sierra Nevada backcountry when the day, and Korgan's life, took a tragic turn. He overshot a jump on his snowmobile, the impact leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. The initial prognosis was that Korgan would not move his legs against gravity again.

Since the injury, however, Korgan has done what very few people, able-bodied or not, ever aim to accomplish. He has pushed an adaptive cross-country sit-ski to Antarctica's South Pole. He has swam with whales, is an avid skier, wakesports athlete and surfer.

"Regardless of ability — or perceived disability — every single one of us has the power to come to the awareness that you can achieve everything you desire in this life," Korgan said.

This mindset is fueling his newest mission — circumnavigating Lake Tahoe in an Outrigger Canoe. Korgan will paddle along the shoreline, roughly 72 miles, on July 29 to raise awareness and funds for the High Fives Foundation. Korgan calls it the Full Circle Project.

If the 38-year-old Korgan succeeds, he will set the Guinness World Record in three categories: fastest time for a spinal cord injured athlete to circumnavigate Lake Tahoe in a one-man outrigger canoe, fastest time to circumnavigate Lake Tahoe in a one-man outrigger canoe, and fastest time to circumnavigate Lake Tahoe with human power. 

The current unofficial record for paddling around Lake Tahoe is 16.5 hours.

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"At no point can we be more than 1,000 feet from shore," Shawna Korgan, Grant's wife, trainer and soul mate, explained. "The training has been about seven or eight months of build-up. We've had such a no-snow winter that Grant was training on Donner Lake wearing a down vest and polypro pants." 

Korgan, being the former co-founder and president of a nanoscience company, has developed a model of spreadsheets detailing the speeds he can travel at various levels of energy, calorie consumption, hydration and salt intake.

"The model points to me beating the 16.5 hours," he said. "I'm not the fastest paddler, but I seem to be pretty good at handling pain and finding progress past those limits."

A boat will follow Korgan as he paddles continuously around the lake. Korgan's team will manage the official time clock and document the event, as well as supply nourishment and encouragement.

Early in his recovery, Korgan met High Fives Foundation Executive Director Roy Tuscany., whose foundation provides support and inspiration throughout the recovery process for athletes like Korgan who have sustained life-altering injuries.

"It was Roy who illuminated the idea that life wasn't going to be the same, but it was still going to be awesome no matter what," Korgan said.

Over the past five years, continued assistance from the High Fives Foundation has helped Korgan eliminate the ceiling of what an athlete can achieve after an injury. The incredible partnership between Korgan and High Fives has inspired Korgan to dedicate this most recent project to the foundation he loves, pledging all funds raised to support current and future High Fives athletes throughout their recoveries. 

"It is a powerful coincidence that Grant was the fifth athlete that the Foundation ever helped," Tuscany said. "The fact that Grant is dedicating this project to High Fives after five years of recovery is truly a full circle."

Added Korgan: "I am honored to bring this journey — from growing up on the shores of Incline Village to my story as a High Fives Athlete — full circle. For me this project, this fundraiser, is about showcasing how the High Fives Foundation has helped me get to the point where I am now physically able to raise funds for other athletes who are beginning their journey of recovery from life-altering injury, now and in the future."

Click here to donate to the Full Circle Project.