On April 19, 2014, after more than six months at sea, 67-year-old Aleksander Doba made his way onto New Smyma Beach in Florida to mark the end of a 6,000-mile, trans-Atlantic kayaking journey. The Polish adventurer, now 68, departed from Lisbon, Portugal back in October.
Doba originally set off on his journey, with the intention of paddling 5,400 miles across the Atlantic to arrive in Florida by mid-February. However, due to equipment failure, the intrepid kayaker was thrown off course, and forced to travel an additional 1,300 miles and two months. His journey, which holds the record for the longest solo-kayaking voyage, is one of only two successful attempts at kayaking across the Atlantic without a sail.
The experience, however, was anything, but easy. Doba didn’t begin kayaking until the age of 34, and did little to physically prepare for the journey. Yet, he persevered through extreme conditions: traveling an average of 30 miles of day, and sleeping sideways in a cramped space in his cockpit. He even battled some unwelcome visitors, whacking a shark on the head with his paddle to warn the encroacher.
But that’s not the worst thing to happen to him. Two months into his voyage, his satellite phone stopping working, leaving him with no form of communication for 47 days. Then he spent 40 days and nights battling the currents that would often make him travel in loops. So naturally, when his kayak’s rudder snapped in protest, Doba was forced to retreat to Bermuda, where he had his boat repaired. The final 700 miles of his journey were then filled with makeshift repairs and innovative patch-ups.
Amazingly, this is not Doba’s first transatlantic crossing. Back in 2010, he spent 99 days paddling 3,400 nautical miles across the narrowest points of the Atlantic. Of course, this “First Transatlantic Kayak Expedition” was only a precursor for his second, lengthier trip.
His incredible achievements have now been honored by National Geographic; he is currently one of 10 people selected as 2015 Adventurer of the Year. Ultimately, through these experiences, Doba hopes that his children and granddaughter will be inspired to chase after their goals. He reminds us all of an important lesson: do not be afraid to dream, turn dreams into plans and plans into reality.