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Segment | Culture

The Year of Living Dangerously

When 16-year-old Zac Sunderland told his parents he wanted to sail solo around the world, they didn’t send him to his room. They pulled out a map and started plotting the route.

It may seem strange to many parents, but the Sunderlands wholeheartedly supported their son's decision to sail 25,000 miles around the earth. When Zac was 10 years old, he and his family sailed up and down the California coast for three years. So when this teenager got bored of high school sports, sailing around the world seemed not so out of the ordinary.

After spending money on a boat and refinishing it, Zac sailed from Marina del Rey in June 2008 and is now a month shy of completing his journey. When he arrives back, he will be the youngest circumnavigator in history. But he may not have that title for long. A British kid named Mike Perham is fast on Zac's trail. He is also competing for the title of youngest solo circumnavigator. Perham has the advantage - he's a couple of months younger than Zac. But for Zac, this was never about titles or competition; it's always been about the journey.

Special thanks to Itik Productions and Zac Sunderland for providing footage for this piece. Thanks also to Praxis Universal for their help with this story.

Zac Sunderland's website
Zac Sunderland's blog
Gizara Arts Photo: Zac Sunderland Takes On the World

LEAVE A COMMENT Leave Comment  

I said a prayer to St. Elmo for your son. I pray that he returns home safely and tells us more about his great adventure.

Saint Elmo is the patron of infants and children with colic and other stomach ailments. He is also the patron saint of sailors who need protection during storms.

Thanks for such an inspiring story.

I also have been followng Zac's story through his Blog on a daily basis. My day isn't complete until I check on a kid that is young enough to be one of my grandkids but for whom I send good thoughts and prayers as well. I hope PBS follows up with an additional story when Zac returns.

Zac may be alone onboard Intrepid, but his journey is watched keenly by thousands of us who check his BLOG daily. We have watched the tremendous personal growth this young man has displayed throughout the many legs of his voyage. Without a doubt, he has earned our love and prayers and unwavering respect.

Most evident is Zac's devotion not only to his endeavor, but to his proud and supporting family.

Great piece. So many have been following this great kid do this great thing. Please continue to cover his voyage and help support his family that is making this possible.

From the very start this trip totally captured my imagination. Like all of us, I cannot wait for Zac to return and tell us more about his adventure. What a brave man. God Bless and protect him.


Great piece! I have been following Zac's journey from the start. We need more role models like Zac.

Zak is truly an inspiration to all, His voyage shows that it is important to believe in what you are doing and never give up. I am sure when Zak returns he will have a positive influence on a lot of people for many years. Best of luck on the rest of your journey and we will see you back at MDR.

Great job on the video. I started following Zac when there was an article in the newspaper in November and appreciate being able to hear the parents point of views. With 3 children of my own and being a military family we have lived all over the world, have tried to give our children as much of the world as we possible could in the short time they are with us. I will continue to pray for Zac and I hope you will have a follow up article when he returns. Cheers from Virginia!

great story. touching. real. i have twittered it. thanks.

Great video. I have been following Zac's
most excellent adventure from up in Washington
state and it was great to see this. Thanks to
KCET for doing this!

It is great to see some positive reporting about our teenagers. There are a lot of great kids out there and the news media seems to forget this all to often. I am following Zac's adventure online and have the greatest praise for him and his parents for believing that a dream can come true. Keep on truckin Zac! John from Texas PS I liked the film.

What a wonderful piece about Zac and the Sunderlands. KCET really captured the story so well in such a short episode. I've been following Zac via his blog and conversations with his family since his departure from Marina del Rey. It is such an exciting adventure and I was so positive after seeing the KCET piece. Then, as soon as the show was over, I went to his blog to see if he was in Grenada yet, and read about his recent problems, and I went from a wonderful high to a very anxious low! He still has a long way to go before arriving home, and hopefully they will make the needed repairs without glitches when he arrives in Grenada, and he won't have any other serious equipment failures or unforeseen weather conditions for the rest of his trip.

KCET should get kudos for a wonderful inspiring piece.


I've been following Zac since he left and its been thrilling to see this young man reach so deep to achieve

his goal. Wow!!! My heart has gone out not only to him but his family as well through so many trying times. Hope you folks can do a follow up on this awesome story. GREAT JOB!!!

Great piece, I've been following Zac for about 4 months and am constantly amazed by his faith and maturity during this adventure.

I've been following Zac's blog since before he left Marina Del Rey. Zac should be in Grenada by now and will still need to get through the Panama Canal. Then it's one more long leg back to Marina Del Ray. This little clip on KCET was a sweet treat since most of his video is for a documentary. Can't wait for that and the book he is writing about his Great Adventure. What an accomplishment for a 16 turned 17 year old young man, to sail alone around the world!

Way to go Zac! I have been following you since before you left MdR. Good luck on your final stage of the trip.

Well done KCET - an excellent short doccy.

A great little video about Zac's trip

That was fantastic coverage of an amazing young man and his adventure. Thank you and Godspeed Zac!

Great video, awesome production, very entertaining and exciting leaves you wanting to see much much more. Hope there will be future ones. A 2 hour show will have the viewer riveted to their seat the entire time.

Enjoyed this on PBS last night. We have followed Zac from the beginning - each morning we look forward to reading the latest and knowing he is safe.

Having followed Zac's blog since before his departure from MDR I thoroughly enjoyed your broadcast last night. Somewhere along the line I missed the part about the potential pirate. Not even sure if Zac had mentioned it.

I wish I was in Grenada to greet him after this arduous journey across the Atlantic (I thought the Pacific crossing was long..:) Looking forward to his Panama Canal transit as are a lot of my freinds.

Always in my thoughts during this adventure have a safe journey and keep on blogging!

jeff in California

Great piece KCET! I have followed Zac's story since the day he left. Haven't missed a single blog. The editing, reporting and interviews in this piece were fantastic! It was very nice to see Lawrence and Marianne's perspectives throughout this adventure. Their thoughts and feelings gave this story a more complete picture of a truly amazing adventure. Looking forward to Zac's safe return!

Truly an inspiration for all of us to live out our dreams.
Incredible story.


I would like to complement Angie for the excellent report on Zac that I have personally been following on his blog site for many months. I have read everything and seen all the photos and it is really nice to have this piece to put it all together for being there in the cockpit with Zac.

I have done a little sailing and yachting and know of how quickly things can change on the ocean and how small we really are out there.

My hat is off to Zac and his family for this fantastic adventure that I fully support and admire and wish that I had had the opportunity too. Instead, my thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.

Thank you again Angie!

I'm a proud member of the "Zac Pac" and a daily follower of Zac's blog.
Thanks for the video, it was great. Can't wait for the movie!
Stay safe Zac!
Tucson, AZ

I loved watching this show last night.

Where is Zac's blog? I can't seem to find it.

Thank you.


Hi Diane,

Here is Zac's website:

and his blog:

KCET Staff

What a great episode put together by the KCET team; exciting true adventure, good video clips and commentary to tell the story in sequence. I can't wait to see more of the same for the conclusion of the adventure when Zac reaches his home port. Keep on sailing Zac, complete your voyage!


I only hope that before I die I have an adventure half as exciting as Zac's.

Enjoyed the piece. Good work capturing some of the excitement in a short segment.

Well done. Thanks to all from British Columbia, Canada

Thanks for the update. I have been following Zac since before he left and was there at MDR when he launched. It was great to see footage of what I have read about on his Blog. My prayers are with him and his safe return.

Very emotional coverage. I cried along with Zac's dad as he prayed his goodbyes to Zac in June of 2008. The coverage from Zac's yacht camera told the story best. God is with us when we ask Him to be, and one can see He is with Zac and his dad and mom. My friend has emailed me every day's coverage of this once in a lifetime adventure. God bless Zac and his family. I look forward to his memoirs of this great adventure, and maybe even a movie one day, starring Zac himself I hope.

Thank you KCET! Angie Crouch did an outstanding job!

This segment really shows the challenges that Zac has had to overcome and gives us some perspective on his remarkable focus and perseverance. Zac's parents deserve a lot of credit too!

I am anxiously awaiting Zac's safe return home and I hope KCET will be there to cover this young man's amazing accomplishment.

Thank you, Anna!!

I placed a blog last night, but don't see it listed. What happened?


Hi Pieter,

That comment can be found on this post, that was promoting the Thursday night broadcast:

Anna, KCET Staff

Great story, great footage. Wow! you have come a long way Zac and you are almost home!! I am so excited for you to return. What an accomplishment. Hooray. KCTS, Thanks for the coverage of this amazing story! I look forward to many more!!!!

Thank you for this much needed and extremely positive story!

Zac is one of our great young role models in America who easily offsets the few bad apples who constantly "make" the news.

For those who think Zac is too young for this adventure, they must remember that our youth at age 17 are allowed to enter military service (with their parents permission) as I did in the USMC in 1967 and are sent to a war zone at age 18 as I and so many others were and are. He was very well trained, experienced and prepared for his journey and knowing the journey is most important illustrates that he was and is also wise enough to make the journey as safely and enjoyalbly as possible.

Indeed Zac will return wiser and even more founded in his faith after spending so much time not alone but surrounded by God's immense majesty and the comfort of knowing God is there with him 24/7 no matter what the trials or end results of his journey are.

Our family also sends Zac and his family our prayers and deep thanks (to KCET and all involved also) for the joy that the sharing of this / his story is bringing to us all.

Great coverage; commendable job on the video. I, too, have followed Zac ever since I heard his story in June, just before he left. It's been great to share the adventure with him and his family; they have become part of my life and daily routine. Very often my students ask me for an update on Zac.
We are looking forward to the culmination of this adventure.

Our family to yours, we feel your pride as well as your concern, God Bless you Zac, and your family. you are in our prayers. And we can't wait for to get home safely.
yours truly,
The Browns

I am praying for you Zac! You are very brave and I wish you Godspeed and His blessings and protection along your journey.

I've enjoyed following the adventure. What a great video.

Thanks, KCET for doing this special. I hope you will be picking up where you left off as his journey returns him to California. I'm very grateful that Zac has safely reached Grenada and have been following his story since last fall. Go Zac!

I just hate to rain on Zac's parade but, unfortunately, Zac's parents have elected to edit any and all comments, to the Zac Blog, that aren't totally positive and supportive.

One of the posters made a valid point that this isn't "truly" a solo circumnavigation of the globe, for record purposes, as Zac has had assistance of one form or another all along the way.

He has stopped for provisions and repairs. Yes, it's quite a trip for someone his age under any circumstances, however, with book, movie rights, etc he should make out well.

There have been sailors that have circumnavigated the globe without stopping and/or assistance. That's incredible!

Sorry to disappoint those that think this some form of miraculous journey but it truly boils down to an interesting vacation with some added drama here and there. Hardly this great feat that his media hungry parents would like everyone to believe....or they wouldn't be censoring Zac's Blog.

Robert, You obviously have never spent any time at sea on a small sailboat otherwise you would be able to appreciate what Zac is accomplishing.
A circumnavigation of the globe is just that and solo means by oneself, alone. That is exactly what Zac is doing. Whatever you mean by "truly" is unclear. Many people have circumnavigated taking years and occasionally flying home. Others stay in port for months and explore the countries they visit. Eventually they all make the circle.
As for assistance by others the "solo circumnavigating racers", non-stop or otherwise, all have an organization with many specialists helping them with supplies, maintenance, weather info and routing, daily contacts and advice, etc.
Does this diminish their effort and accomplishment?
More introspection and less criticism of others may be a worthwhile pursuit for you.


Zac's trip has been a solo circumnavigation by any standard. It has not been a solo non-stop circumnavigation, but that particular attempt requires a much more expensive kit, and a vessel that costs far too much for most private ventures such as this one.
I've seen and read everything to do with this trip so far, and never seen any evidence that Zac's folks seek publicity. They have only occasionally sought support from the marine community in the form of small sponsorships, such as the donation of the SPOT communicator which so proved its worth recently. They have, of course, very politely agreed to do a few interviews when sought out for that, and I expect they will be sought out for a few more before this is done, especially since both Zac and his Dad are fun to watch. I don't view that as anything but ordinary civility towards the local news crew. It is newsworthy, after all.

Thank you so much for your coverage of Zac via the internet. I live in Iowa and have been following his journey through his blog site. Your show was excellent! I am also grateful to now know about your great website, as my daughter and family live in Southern California.

Thanks for this story. I learned of Zac from a newspaper article which appeared following his encounter with the pirates. I have used him as a great role model to challenge my teen patients to dream big and to pursue these dreams. The pictures show his transformation from a teen to a young man. Thanks again for the video about this inspiring teen! I also appreciate the reality of the family's faith. My wife and I have been praying for him consistently.

Great Episode! Bravo! to Zac and his family!

I have been following Zac's journey since he left California. I have been a faithful reader of his blog. Seeing this video has helped to experience what Zac is going through. What an awesome episode you have put together in this video. Thank you so much for posting this on your web site so that others may see, feel and experience sailing through Zac's eyes. What an awesome video! Excellent! Thank you.

GREAT job KCET - having followed Zac's amazing journey from the very beginning made this video a very special treat!
Thank you to all concerned.

This was a great special! I have been following Zac on his adventure but to see actual footage of it and the way it was presented was spectacular! Thank you so much for putting together and airing this important event in our country's history!

I've been following Zac for some time and find the entire family and their freinds inspirational. Thank You KCET for making this available on line so those of us in Florida and the entire world can see 1st hand some of what we have been reading about.

A great piece. As a loyal Zac Packer, it is a great treat to see this video footage and get to hear Marianne's and Luarance's voices. Thanks and I hope you will be able to cover Zac's return.
Brian B.
Santa Cruz, CA.

Thanks for the Zac Sunderland feature. I'm one of many that have been following Zac's adventure on his blog. I think the spirit of adventure that he and his family have shown is to be admired. Too often we seem to be living in a society based on fear. Zac and his family have shown us that we can live life to the fullest without constantly being afraid. Bon journee!

What a great adventure, please keep up the coverage.

Zac is doing a great job. Hope Zac comes home safely.

Robert, perhaps you need a vacation, or at very least, a hobby.
Zac has clearly weathered rain storms far in excess of your "sour grapes" tirade. This is an amazingly skilled and brave young man. His parents are clearly responsible for much of this. Kudos to the Sunderland family!

Wonderful video. This is the first I have heard about Zac. I will be passing it on to others now. Thank you for sharing his story. I am a Christ follower and homeschooling parent and am so encouraged to see the family's strong faith and courage to follow a dream. Glory to God!

What an outstanding gift Zac's father gave to him. This is an initiation into manhood equal to what the American Indians did for their sons at 14 sending them out into the wildness to find their way on their own. There's not a better way to connect to their inner resources than this.

Thanks for producing this story. I've been following the blogs since he set sail and this is the best piece I've seen yet to tell the story. Thanks for not shying away from telling the role of faith in this story.

Great piece about this young man sailing around the world! Really enjoyed it. Would definitely like to see a more indepth story.

This is great. Excellent reporting.

This was a great piece....exciting and inspirational. We've been following his story for quite a while now, but were so thrilled to see video of him and all he is doing.

This is a true coming of age story, isn't it!

I have followed zac's adventure since he left mdr. I have always wished i could have done the same. Your program has given me insight into his world at sea. Thank you keep up the good work with this type of programming.

Thanks KCET for allowing this remarkable video update. I teach enrichment classes for home schooled students and my 'Current Events' classes have been following Zac throughout the year. They will love this video. You really summed it up and gave us pictures to go along with the subjects we have talked about over this past year. Thanks for the update about this great young man and his family. Teenagers don't get much praise these days. It was refreshing to see this become a 'news item'. Thank you!

Marilee Weeks/Roswell GA

That is a fantastic video, I have only just started following Zac when I found him through Mike perham's blog. I think it is amazing that these two brave young men are racing round the world.

I wish them the best and hope they get home safely.

Mike perham's blog is at and there is another channger at

That was a great piece. Thank you for putting into video the amazing story we have all been following on Zach's blog!

Zac's story is truly amazing. The confidence Zac has to even think about enduring this, AND than to actually tackle this dream, shows us all...that nothing is impossible. Kudos to his parents for having the strength, and confidence in him to set him free to navigate the globe on his own....WOW! Can't wait to see him reach home safely.

I wish all other TV stations do similar programs to show the today's young generation that there are other options out there other than becoming a gang member or doing drugs.

By recognizing a young man like Zac KCET did a great job. But it is NOT ENOUGH!!!

We need to bring fame and constant recognition Zac and Zac-like other teenagers and their accomplishments to show other teens that yes also they can be famous, recognized and respected without becoming a gun carrying gangster rapper or scandalous headline creator teen idols with their sexy outfits and bizarre behaviors.

C'mon KCET show your leadership in Quality Programming. Teens in America need good role models . You found one like Zac. A little more focus on him please!

Thank you KCET for the wonderful coverage on Zac Sunderland and his adventure. I want to know, 'where can I buy a copy of the video you showed on the air?' This is something I would like to show my grandchildren to give them inspiration to follow their dreams when they become teenagers. I too am a 'proud Zac-Packer!'....

Oh wow that was great to see first hand how things really are out there on the open seas. I've been following Zac the whole time from Lacey, Washington. It's so incredible I get goose bumps each time I read a blog or see a clip. It's amazing what he is doing. Good Luck Zac! Mom and Dad should be so proud.


Zac is quite the sailor. I was pleased to see the piece on SoCal Connected. I have been following Zac since before he started this journey. He will have some amazing stories when he returns to California. He left Grenada this morning, heading for Panama. He is about 4000 miles from the finnish line!

Thank you so much KCET for making this piece available on your web site, especially for those of us that are not local. I hope your pieces on Zac will go national on PBS! I've been following Zac since just before he left MDR after hearing him & his mom on an NPR piece. His adventure has been so amazing to follow - he and his family have truly been inspirational and continue to be so each day. I look forward to each blog, and look forward to more like your next piece. Seeing the interviews and footage on video brought a whole new perspective to the stories I knew from the blog -- thank you so much -- your work is very much appreciated!

My prayers are with this young man and his family. I too am born and raised on he So Cal coast from a family of boaters. I now have a son who is 11 yrs old and I can only imagine the amazing journey that both parents and son are experiencing. The BEST thing about this is the faith that they all share. GOD will watch over them!!!

David Mawhinney
La Crescenta, CA

Awesome piece! Very encouraging to see young people step out and do hard things like this!

such a recap! wonderful!

I don't understand how the State of California and the parents can let this poor child go on it completely alone for a whole year loss without his parents. Something he and they will surely remember?What a risk.

I don't understand how the State of California and the parents can let this poor child go on it completely alone for a whole year loss without his parents. Something he and they will surely remember?What a risk.

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