Larkspur man prepares to attempt unaided kayaking trip to Hawaii
Cyril Derreumaux had never paddled a kayak until he moved to Marin 12 years ago. The experience was life changing.
His passion for paddling led him to compete in 8 mile races, then 15 miles until he finally became an ultra-athlete competing in races of several hundred kilometers.
His desire to continue pushing his physical and mental limits drove him to this moment. Derreumaux will start paddling from Sausalito at 5 a.m. on Monday and if all goes according to plan he won’t be back for months.
Derreumaux, 44, a French resident of Larkspur, attempts a solo adventure that will see him kayaking completely unassisted by Marin in Hawaii. The 2,400 nautical mile journey could take him between 60 and 70 days.
“You don’t wake up one day saying, ‘I’m going to cross an ocean in a kayak,’” Derreumaux said. “I started small in 8 mile races – it’s like a half hour race – 100 miles and other races in Canada. The Yukon River Quest is 444 miles away. It’s about 50 hours of paddling.
“I like ultra endurance, long distance where it’s not sprints, it’s not muscles. It’s about managing your condition, your diet, your hydration and physical fatigue and even sleep deprivation – being aware and seeing the potential of what could be and go on, just keep going.
One thing that works in Derreumaux’s favor is that he has made this trip before – albeit as part of a four-person rowing boat.
“Five years ago I did a rowing race called the Great Pacific Race (from Monterey to Hawaii) and we won it in 39 days. I swore I would never do it again, ”says Derreumaux with a laugh. “Then I started reading books again about how other people go on kayaking adventures and I just got inspired.”
Derreumaux has been running this excursion since 2018. His kayak – named “Valentine” – was custom built in England and cost around $ 80,000. The kayak is approximately 22 feet long, straightens up automatically, and is unsinkable.
Valentine has a 6 foot cabin just big enough for the 5 foot 10 inch tall Derreum to sleep in. The boat has enough storage space to hold around 70 days of freeze-dried meals and energy bars, but the problem is that Derreumaux will have to sleep on food bags for a good part of the trip as there is nowhere. where to put them.
“The (biggest challenge) would be to manage everything alone because there is no one else,” said Derreumaux. “So I have to be aware of the weather, the equipment, the boat and my physical and mental well-being. Being alone, you have to be aware of everything. You must be able to repair electronics. I have to be able to fix the boat and make sure I don’t get hurt or hallucinate or seasick. There are so many and it’s all on my shoulders.
Valentine also has another feature that Derreumaux says will make the next 60-70 days of her life easier: a system of pedals that will allow her to move the boat forward with her legs.
“I decided to have a kayak so I am using an upper body paddle, but I also added a pedaling system which will also allow me to use my lower body,” said Derreumaux. “I want to change – two hours in the upper body, two hours in the lower body.
“All the kayakers that did this, they came in after 70 days and their legs were atrophied and the tendons were completely weak. I think if I can use my upper and lower body I will be so much faster because I will be healthier.
After completing his four-hour shift, day and night, Derreumaux will retire to his cabin for a nap, but never more than two hours before waking up and spending four more hours. Sleeping too long would put Derreumaux in danger of hitting a container ship that was beyond its radar when it fell asleep. It would also risk drifting too far off course.
Combating sleep deprivation and managing your nutrition will be crucial to Derreumaux’s hopes of setting a 64-day Guinness World Record for the trip.
Derreumaux will need to eat 6,000 calories per day to give his body the energy it needs to spend so many hours paddling and pedaling. Even so, Derreumaux expects to be in deficit as he will burn around 8,000 calories per day. He gained weight on purpose to make sure he had enough energy reserves to get through the trip.
“Now my body is around 25% fat and I’m going to get there, I don’t know, at 7 or 8% fat,” Derreumaux said.
Fresh water shouldn’t be a problem as Derreumaux has two ways to desalinate the water on Valentine – one of which is powered by solar panels on the cabin roof.
When designing the boat, Derreumaux was more concerned with safety than speed or performance. As such, Valentine is full of gadgets – GPS devices, navigation systems to see his location and all the other boats around him, and a satellite phone to make sure he can contact someone and be found. In case of problem.
Derreumaux will be attached to the kayak at all times when it is outside the cabin, otherwise it may get stranded at sea if the kayak capsizes. It will also carry a personal locator tag at all times.
Derreumaux will be doing a lot of his paddling at night, so he will be wearing a waterproof and luminescent Hawaiian Lifeguard Association Watch to better track his time in the dark.
While Derreumaux has made this trip on a four-person boat before, he readily admits that he never attempted anything remotely like this as an unassisted kayaker. Derreumaux was kayaking along the Sacramento River, going about 60 miles a day, but he slept on the shore every night.
While the coronavirus pandemic delayed Derreumaux’s ocean crossing attempt by a calendar year, it may also have helped him better prepare to go more than 60 days without seeing another human being. The more flexible working hours that the pandemic allowed him also allowed Derreumaux to put in more hours of training to prepare for his adventure.
“I was working hard but I made sure I didn’t hurt myself,” Derreumaux said. “It’s really easy to be overtrained and overdo it. Joints and tendons could wear out. The idea is to be right there on the threshold where you push them so they get stronger but don’t hurt each other.
Derreumaux said he was told this adventure would be more of a mental challenge than a physical one – up to 95% mental – although he believes it will be more of a 60/40 ratio. Maximizing the potential of himself – his mental and physical strength, his ability to read the ocean and navigate successfully – and his boat will be crucial.
“Crossing the ocean will be for anyone who can keep their potential as long as possible,” said Derreumaux. “You could be like a beast, but if you are mentally weak you won’t be able to do it and vice versa you could be mentally strong but you also don’t have the muscles that won’t work. “
Derreumaux will blog throughout its journey and its progress can be followed live on its website, www.solokayaktohawaii.com.
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