Kayak from California to Hawaii » Explorersweb

Ocean rowing is becoming more and more popular, but kayaking in an ocean is still a rare and extreme feat. This year, Cyril Derreumaux sought to do what only one other person had done before: kayak the Pacific solo, from California to Hawaii.

He left Monterey on June 21, and on September 20, after 91 days at sea, he grounded his vessel in Hilo, Hawaii.

Derreumaux is not opposed to rowing. He had already rowed from San Francisco to Hawaii in 2016. At the time, as part of a four-man team, he broke what was then the speed record for the backcountry. But solo kayaking was something else.

“Being in the middle of the ocean, alone, and feeling the waves, the rawness of nature and the force of the ocean,” Derreumaux told ExplorersWeb. “Something inside of me just drew me in.”

The route from California to Hawaii

The route. Image: solokayaktohawaii.com

Inspired by Ed Gillet’s 1987 epic

The ride mimics Ed Gillet’s legendary 1987 crossover. Gillet was one of the inspirations for this project, and Derreumaux spoke to him several times before leaving.

Although the route was the same, Derreumaux admits that their journeys were incredibly different. Gillet used a standard 20-foot Tofino double kayak. His effort was truly solo. He pushed in with just an SOS transmitter and a radio, which soon broke down. He sailed with a sextant and slept in the cabin with a tarp over him.

By the end of his trip, he was hallucinating, all his supplies had run out, and he was eating toothpaste. His family suspected that he had died. In fact, Gillet later wrote that if he had made the trip 10 times, he would have died five times.

Derreumaux doesn’t think anyone can replicate Gillet’s trip. He describes him as a pioneer and a maverick.

Cyril Derreumaux packs supplies in his kayak before setting off.

Photo: CyrilDerreumauxAdventure/Facebook

Not an ordinary kayak

By comparison, Derreumaux had a custom-built carbon-fiber vessel with a sleeping cabin, a team of people to advise him on land, and all the gear he could ask for: GPS, VHF radio, satellite phones, Iridium and solar trackers. panels

However, his journey was not easy. Getting to Hawaii successfully was quite a feat. Several people have died trying to cross this stretch of water. Derreumaux himself had to be rescued after just a couple of days in 2021 when he first attempted to cross. Strong winds and 15-foot swells damaged his kayak, which began to leak. She called the coast guard.

Cyril Derremaux rowing away from California

Photo: CyrilDerreumauxAdventure/Facebook

Derreumaux spent the year making improvements. She modified her marine anchoring platform, installed a satellite communication system, and added a manual bilge pump and side panels to keep water out of the cabin. Then he spent five days on the coast of Santa Cruz training in strong winds. She even slept more on the boat to get used to it and ensure a better rest.

None of this assured the outcome, but he felt more confident when he first got into his boat and set off. He knew that he had done everything in his power to succeed.

On June 21, he set out in the middle of a flotilla of rowers, who came to wish him well. Then followed three months of solitude. He had initially hoped to complete the 4,444 km in 70 days, but difficult conditions and multiple challenges delayed his progress.

Cyril Derreumaux completes his kayak in Hawaii

Photo: CyrilDerreumauxAdventure/Facebook

first fights

For the first few weeks, the winds blew her in the wrong direction and she struggled to hold her position. The almost constant swell made him dizzy. Fortunately, after the first few weeks, conditions improved and he was able to move on.

He had to overcome a series of small problems. In week two, she ruptured her steer line tube and her compartment was flooded. He had to create a drainage system. Then the steering line got very stiff and she had to find a way to alleviate that.

Off the California coast, it was cloudy and foggy all day, making it difficult for the solar panels to recharge their batteries. After 46 days, his watermaker broke, so he had to use the manual.

Photo: CyrilDerreumauxAdventure/Facebook

He had calculated that he would need 6,000 calories a day, but halfway there, he began to ration food. It was very clear that he was not going to cover the distance in 70 days. Even with rationing, he wasn’t sure he could survive. He didn’t want to have to start eating toothpaste like Gillet.

He decided to change his Hawaiian terminal. Instead of landing in Waikiki, she was redirected to Hilo, which was six days closer. Only then did she have enough food to complete the distance.

Despite the challenges, Derreumaux says he loved the trip.

“The first two or three weeks were the hardest,” he said afterwards, “but then you get more confident in your boat and in your skills. After that, it’s more mental and looks like Groundhog Day. Eventually, I got into a pattern where I just enjoyed the day. Your mind just clears and you are completely free to have new thoughts.”