It’s a great time for stories of strong females and when this one arrived in my inbox, I couldn’t help but get excited. Japan is a country on honour and tradition. Women don’t become dog sledders. That’s for men. You follow the rules and you obey your elders. That path wasn’t for Yuka Honda. She defied tradition and her families wishes and set about to conquer her dream. Alone. On the other side of the world.
Underdog is a beautiful short film (10 minutes) following Yuka’s internal struggle to find the strength to compete in the biggest dog sled race in the world, while still grieving the loss of her mother. The beautiful and very intimate connection Yuka has with her dogs is a key focus in the film as Yuka moves through the process of training and preparing for the race.
The race she is entering is the 1,000 mile Yukon Quest from Fairbanks, Alaska to Whitehorse, Yukon. It usually take competitors 11 days to complete. It is by far the longest and toughest dog sled race in the world. Competitors will travel through temps as low as -50 celsius, snowstorms, frostbite, 16-hour stretches of darkness and long days of racing. This will be Yuka’s 5th attempt at the Yukon Quest. She has only crossed the finish line once before. In 2006, he race finished with the US airforce rescuing her and five other dogsled teams from Eagle Summit in the middle of a snowstorm. It’s a tough gig.
What I love about this film is not just the beautiful intimacy that the film makers Vivian Belik and Naomi Marks capture, but the the message it sends to the viewer. An unlikely story similar to our article of Norwegian Inga venturing to Alaska alone to snowboard and the Yokon to goldmine. Stories of strong women are everywhere doing things previously thought of as ‘man’s jobs’. Here at Still Stoked we are all about sharing those stories and inspiring other women to step into these roles. No dream is too big, and no goal is out of reach. Like Yuka’s mum said on her deathbed “Just Do It”
Watch the film here