If you’re a fan of the “Deadliest Catch” Discovery Channel television series, the last time you saw Travis Lofland he was lucky to be alive. At the end of last season, the veteran Time Bandit crab-fishing vessel deckhand slipped on ice while trying to leap from the dock to his boat, and ended up in the below-freezing waters of Dutch Harbor, Alaska.
“Falling off the boat kind of opened my eyes,” says Lofland, now 39 years old and living in Sarasota, Fla. “I dislocated some ribs, and hypothermia is no joke. To make big things happen in life, sometimes you have to make big changes.”
After his icy plunge, Lofland decided to take at least one year off from commercial crab fishing, something he’s made much of his living at since he was in his late teens. A native of rural Lynden, Wash., Lofland got to know the Sarasota area through an annual charity fishing event there that was connected to the television show. His ties to Florida grew even deeper a few years ago when he became the throttleman for the Time Bandit offshore raceboat, which was sponsored by Johnathan and Andy Hillstrand, the owners and captains of the 113-foot Time Bandit crab boat. With Bob Mazikowski, the owner of the SVL-class raceboat, handling the driving duties, Lofland throttled the boat for two seasons.
Now, thanks to offshore racing veteran and world champion Peter Meyer, Lofland has a new ride for at least four races in the 2013. Meyer, who owns Instigator, a 40-foot Fountain V-bottom competing in the Super Boat International Superboat Extreme class this year, had planned on retiring from the sport at the end of 2012. But during a family vacation to Florida this winter, he met with Lofland and the two decided to team up for several races this season.
The pairing in Instigator means two big changes for Lofland. First, he goes from the throttleman position, where he controlled Time Bandit’s speed and trim angles, to the driver’s seat—Meyer handles the throttling duties in the 40-footer. Second, he goes from a low-90-mph boat to a 117-mph boat. (Instigator actually can run much faster, but Superboat Extreme is a speed-bracketed class where the top speed is limited to 117 to mph to level the playing for boats of different hull types and power setups.)
Lofland and Meyer ran their first race together last month in Cocoa Beach, Fla. By all accounts, conditions were severe for an offshore race. They included jumbled four- to six-footers whipped to breaking froth by 20- to 30-mph wind gusts. Despite the pounding the team took—a mechanical issue forced them out of the race after the fourth lap—Lofland was delighted.
“It’s still sinking in,” Lofland wrote on his Facebook page after the race. “The adrenaline hasn’t left me, and I am so honored to have the opportunity to run with Peter. I didn’t know boats were capable of such acts. Right now, I’m just looking for a pinch to wake me up. I’m driving the Instigator.”
Next up for Lofland and Meyer? The Suncoast Super Boat Grand Prix in Lofland’s “home waters” off Sarasota. Without question, the former “Deadliest Catch” star will be ready to run.