Catching Up With Doba: A PL Q&A

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With his blisters and water sores still healing, Paddling Life catches up with 67-year-old Polish paddler Aleksander Doba, who on April 19 completed his second successful trans-Atlantic crossing by sea kayak, paddling up to onlookers in New Smyrna Beach, Fla. Here’s what he had to say about the journey…

Doba , a retired engineer, made the trip in his custom-built, 23-foot-long kayak named OLO, leaving Lisbon, Portugal, on October 5, 2013, bound in his hand-propelled boat for New Smyrna Beach, Florida, some 4,700 nautical miles away. In completing his journey 167 days later, he became the first person to kayak between the most distant points located on the coasts of Europe and North America. Along the 6,000-mile crossing, he suffered countless obstacles and set-backs, from disappearing from radio contact for 50 days to paddling in circles in the Bermuda Triangle and breaking his rudder and self-righting roll-bar wings.

Here’s what he had to say, through Polish translator, supporter and friend Piotr Chmielinski:

PL: How does it feel to have completed it?
Doba: The main feeling is probably a great satisfaction and pleasure, that such a long, interesting, difficult, and at times even dramatic expedition ended in the full success to reach the planned target, New Smyrna Beach, Florida. In short – it was a great satisfaction and fun. My intention was to paddle the distance between the continents of Europe and of North America. Even before the start of the expedition I wanted to get to the middle part of the Florida coast, and because Cape Canaveral is well known throughout the world, and so closely located New Smyrna Beach with a beautiful marina, it seemed a very convenient place for ending of my trip. Later on, I also met wonderful people of New Smyrna Beach who prepared a warm enthusiastic welcome for me.

PL: Which trip was harder, the first or second?
Doba: Definitely, the second expedition was more difficult, the voyage between Europe and North America. It was a longer route in a region affiliated with more difficult weather conditions. On the way I battled eight major storms, wrestled a very strong current from the Gulf Stream, and the dangerous Bermuda Triangle made me run circles for over a month. All those factors made my last trip much more difficult than the previous one.

PL: Any plans to do it again?
Doba: No, no plans to repeat this trip. I am a kayaker — a tourist. With each trip I am interested in something else, definitely new. If I had the opportunity I would choose a different route, certainly.

PL: What’s next?
Doba: This question is easy, but difficult to answer. I still have in me such a young man who thinks he can still accomplish so much, but also, there is in me, let’s say that old man, the wiser man, who is pacing the youngster. Of course I have different plans, ideas and dreams. They’re still a little vague therefore it is far too soon to elaborate on them. I can only say that completing the transatlantic expedition was the greatest journey in my life and now I would like as soon as possible to see my family, which I really missed very much and they missed me, too. There is still plenty of time to think about further adventures. Soon, I want to take a long, difficult journey but this time I will be in the company of passengers of a big aircraft, that will take me back home to the capital of Poland, Warsaw.

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