Kayaker set for long paddle to Hawaii


Paddling a kayak from California to Hawaii is not impossible. It has been done.


Adventure athlete Wave Vidmar appeared ready to begin his attempt at his two-month, 3,100-mile journey Sunday morning from Bodega Bay.

But the NYT’s Tom Sims — who penned a cool piece on the 48-year-old Vidmar in June — tweeted the adventurer’s expected Sunday departure had been delayed for a rather non-adventurous reason:

Presuming a settled-down stomach and an imminent departure, Vidmar will aim for the Hawaiian islands in a tech-laden, super-sophisticated double kayak. His is only the second try on a supremely short list of attempted Pacific paddlers.

The only solo kayaker to try or complete the California-to-Hawaii journey was Ed Gillet in 1997.

The NYT’s Sims reported the reclusive Gillet was not receptive to attempts by Vidmar to learn directly from the one man who has completed — or attempted — to paddle from California to Hawaii.

Gillet may have not helped Vidmar directly, but his existing harrowing online accounts would give pause to any ordinary human contemplating such a trip:

“The cold wind was relentless. When I poked my head out in the mornings I screamed into the wind, “I don’t want to die!” I felt as exposed and as stressed as I had on long rock climbs. I relied on my skill and equipment for survival — even a small mistake could prove fatal.”

Another month or so into his 63-day journey, Gillet told Canoe & Kayak Magazine he hit the Pacific trade winds, the best part of his trip:

“The weather was warm, the wind blew constantly at 20 knots, the sea was a frothy royal blue, and I had a school of mahi-mahi traveling with me — they hung under my boat at night and swam along with me all day, like a pack of friendly dogs.”

In his accounts, Gillet describes facing psychological turmoil on the trip, though he believes it may been exacerbated or brought on by medication he received.

Vidmar plans to complete his 3,100 mile journey in 45 to 65 days, eating 5,500 calories a day to sustain an eight-hour paddling schedule.

Outfitter and sponsor Seaward Kayaks have customized one of their Passat G3 kayaks just for the trip. Designers have reinforced Vidmar’s vessel with carbon fiber and Kevlar, and removed internal panels for more space.

Even for someone like Vidmar — whose globe-spanning adventures would already fill several lifetimes — paddling from California to Hawaii is the challenge of a lifetime and a battle for survival.

For the 2012 attempt, Vidmar says he’s not worried about loneliness, sharks or keeping himself entertained out on the open seas. He does worry about tsunami debris from Japan, though, calling it his “biggest danger.”

Though they’re not up and running yet, two different tracking pages (Page 1 Page 2) exist to give updates on Vidmar’s progress via GPS.

Jesse Garnier
Jesse Garnier is the editor and founder of SFBay. A Mission District native, he also teaches journalism as associate professor at San Francisco State University.

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