Third Time’s a Salt-Water-Blister-Filled Charm: Doba Sets Off for Record Third Atlantic Sea Kayak Crossing


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Is he just a glutton for punishment, Poseidon-style? Or maybe he just can’t figure out anything better to do? Whatever the reason, Polish adventurer Aleksander Doba just set out on his third solo trans-Atlantic crossing by sea kayak, this time going west to east from New York City to Portugal.

Doba, the 2015 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, left the Big Apple in his boat on May 29, with plans to reach Portugal in time for his 70th birthday in September. As with his two previous Atlantic crossings, he plans to make the entire 3,700-mile journey by paddle power only, save for the occasional surf of a monster wave or nudge of a whale tail.

If anyone can do it, let alone for the third time, it’s Doba. In 2011 the retired mechanical engineer kayaked for 99 days from Senegal to Brazil, after getting lost and paddling in circles for a spell in route. Two years later, in 2013 he paddled from Portugal to Florida., again solo and solely under human power — the second person to kayak across the entire Atlantic Ocean self-powered.

Before leaving New York in his 21-foot, extremely sturdy kayak, Doba told reporters that he believed this crossing would be tougher than his previous two due to colder water, more currents and predictions of harsh weather. But at least he has the experience to tackle it.
He won National Geographic’s Adventurer of the Year Award by sea kayaking across the Atlantic…at age 67, for the second time. It was billed as the longest open-water kayak crossing of the Atlantic Ocean ever.

“It was the vote at the National Geographic website that showed how many known- and unknown-to-me friends I have all over the world who are fascinated with the 67-year-young person in a kayak on the great ocean,” Doba said of receiving the award. “It makes me feel humbled and very honored.”

That time, Doba spent more than six months paddling 7,700 miles across the Atlantic Ocean, beginning in October 2013 from Lisbon, Portugal, and ultimately docking in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, in April 2014. He originally intended to follow a 5,400-mile route, but a combination of storms and equipment failure pushed him off course and extended the journey. Averaging 30 miles a day, Doba is the only person to kayak across the Atlantic, continent to continent, alone, unassisted and under his own power. He had already kayaked across the Atlantic from Africa to South America in 2010-2011.

“Each of our honorees embodies the spirit of adventure and is committed to following big dreams and redefining what’s possible,” says Mary Anne Potts, editorial director of National Geographic Adventure online. “That Doba’s story touched so many shows that experience and wisdom triumph in the end. He reminds us that, no matter your age, life should be an adventure.”

As Doba says on his web site, “The date in my ID says that I’m 70 this year, but I’ll tell you a secret–sometimes I feel like a teenager. Maybe my soul is not aging.”

Staff Post
Paddlers writing about all things paddling.


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