The man with the plan – Steven Moll
In our final installment of Dangerous Waters cast and crew blogs we sat down with Steven Moll, the man who started the whole thing. Steven had an idea to travel the entire globe on his Sea-Doo personal watercraft and this stemmed into an unforgettable journey on Season 1 of the show. Now in Season 2, some things have changed. Take an exclusive look into the mastermind of Dangerous Waters
Q: How did you decide to start Dangerous Waters?
A: I used to own an advertising company and about three years back, a client of mine asked if I wanted to go out on a Sea-Doo in the San Francisco Bay and my impression was that I’d show up with a six pack, board shorts and flip flops to do some donuts, east some food and have a few cold ones.
Instead, he put a dry suit on me and took me out underneath the Golden Gate Bridge It was the coolest thing I’d ever done. I couldn’t understand why there weren’t more people doing this … it seemed like a great sport and a week later I had a Sea-Doo dealership as a client for the agency. I instantly traded them my services for a Sea-Doo. I took that thing to every lake and river in my neck of the woods.
After that, I started going out to Catalina off the coast of L.A. by myself. And then I went out to the Farallon islands off the coast of San Francisco. It’s a huge breeding ground for great white sharks. Some of the biggest sharks in the world are out there and I was nervous because they’re nearly twice as big as my Sea-Doo, but we didn’t see any. It was such a magical place … like something out of a National Geographic magazine and right underneath me was this big humpback whale looking back up at me.
It was an absolutely incredible experience and it was at that moment I felt like I had to take this thing through Alaska. So I got a group of eight guys together and everybody was gung-ho until we started to look at the routes and logistics. Guys started to drop out pretty quickly. Three of us were still dedicated so we started in Prince Rupert, British Columbia and rode all the way through the Alaskan inside passage and back.
We filmed the entire 1,200 mile ride. We all have dreams, but it’s so rare that we chase them. Well I chased this one. I ended up making a sizzle reel when we got back and sent it out to every single television network that I knew of. I literally called 411, “Discovery Channel, please” and that’s how we made the contacts. I ended up getting a contract with HD Net. They took 10 episodes of Dangerous Waters and the rest is history.
Q: So you’re getting ready to set off for Season 2. What’s different this year from last year?
A: This year we know the stakes. We could die doing what we’re doing so we’ll take every single precaution that we can to ensure that we get back home to our families. I have a wife and four kids to take care of and the crew has 12 kids collectively. We go for greatness, but we make sure we get home in the end.
Q: Is the weather the thing that scares you most on this trip?
A: Bears scare me. I know the guys think, “Oh, we’ll handle the bears,” but polar bears will smell you from 35 miles away and you’re just another piece of meat. I don’t like the idea of them. Grizzly bears and brown bears, especially as we get down into Russia, some of them have never seen a human before so they’re not scared of us, but they probably don’t want to mess with us either so I’m not really worried about them. It’s the polar bears that worry me. I don’t like them. We’ll put Pat on all night watch with a Taser.
Q: What was the scariest moment from Season 1?
A: Floating upside-down on my Sea-Doo in the middle of the Bering Strait. That was the scariest part of Season 1. When I watched it I said, “Oh, that was a bad idea … we shouldn’t have done that.” We were losing control out in the Bering Strait last year, and being upside-down on top of it, with Pat next to me was … I appreciate living.
Q: How many hours do you have in the water on a typical leg of these journeys?
A: That’s the thing. There is no typical weather during these things. We are on the water as long as the weather allows us. We’ve had days where we were on the water for 15 hours or longer, and we’ve had days where we were on the water for only four or five. Some days we simply poked our noses out of our tents and realized we’d rather stay ashore; it all depends on what the weather is up to.
Q: Is there a specific aspect of each leg of the journey that is more dangerous than the others?
A: This year’s so different from last year, going through the United States and Canada. This year I think the biggest dangers are the unknowns. We know about water conditions, gear and how to prepare for that. We know how to take our watercraft and everything we’re going to need. But we don’t know about the cultures or how they’re going to receive us. We’re hoping that human spirit will help us. On an expedition like this that’s never been done before you’re counting on people that you’ve never met that don’t even know you’re coming.
Q: What kinds of different technology are you taking with you on these trips?
A: We’re taking iPads, iPhones, GPS, Spot GPS communicators and SAT phones to name a few. We’re taking all the technology you can imagine to be extreme. Last year, we had zip lock bags and dry bags to protect our gear and some of it was ruined. But this year having OtterBox as a partner protecting our technology has really brought the confidence of my crew up tremendously. When we need it, it’ll be there.
Q: What’s the single most important piece of technology to protect on this trip?
A: It’s a double-edged sword. I need to know where I’m going so if no one’s hurt, then the GPS is the most important. In an emergency, the satellite phone is most important. But the combination of those two instruments together is the most important. If I call you on the sat phone and I can’t give you my GPS location, you could send the US army to come find me, but you never would.
Q: What’s the biggest risk to your technology out here?
A: Saltwater. Saltwater would destroy everything. And that’s catastrophic. An eyedropper full of saltwater would ruin a GPS
Q: You guys came up with a pretty innovative way to keep your stuff charged on this trip. Can you describe a little bit how you came up with those on sled type charging solutions?
A: We took a waterproof case and put inverters inside of it, then wired the inverters outside the case into our onboard batteries. As we’re running, we can have everything plugged in and charging, so the charge is coming off our Sea-Doo battery.
Q: What does the expedition demand of you as a leader?
A: I have to make sure that I get my crew the resources they need to do their jobs so that the expedition can be a success. That’s the biggest thing that the crew is demanding of me. Routing is pretty much something I’ve taken on by myself … where we’re going, where the fuel is …
Q: Prior to this trip, what kinds of websites did you visit to get prepared?
A: To prepare for this trip? Well of course we have all of our social media sites. We have Facebook and we do still have a MySpace account, but we don’t use it very often, and we’re on Twitter. But that’s just to get the word out about what we’re doing. We use Google a heck of a lot. When you’re looking for something and you don’t really know where to find it, Google is your best bet.
Q: So what’s next?
A: Well, we’ve got to go around the whole planet and I can’t even believe that when I’m saying it. We’re going to make it to Taiwan this year – that’s the goal. And then next year, it’s Taiwan to Australia, then up through Indonesia and India. We just keep going and going and going. So what’s next? I don’t know for sure. I just know that we have a television show and we’re going around the whole planet.