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Pacific Paddle Completed!

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  • Pacific Paddle Completed!

    After 92 days at sea, Marin kayaker reaches Hawaii, becomes second person ever to do so
    By Gregory Thomas :

    On Tuesday afternoon, Marin kayaker Cyril Derreumaux paddled to shore on Hawaii's big island, capping a 92-day voyage and establishing him as the first kayaker ever to travel alone from California to the islands under his own power.

    The 46-year-old Frenchman, who lives in Larkspur, had attempted the same crossing last year but was stymied by rough weather in the early going and called for a helicopter rescue off the coast of Santa Cruz. He spent a year preparing for his second bid and set out from Monterey in late June.

    "It’s been a spiritual experience," Derreumaux said Tuesday morning on a phone call with The Chronicle. At the time, he was about two miles offshore, waiting to ride a favorable tide into the bayside town of Hilo.

    Facing the finish line on a three-month adventure he'd planned for years, Derreumaux was buzzing with delight and gratitude, riding a wave of existential clarity.

    "I decluttered my brain and my spirit and completely opened my mind to the now," he said. "All I had to do was listen to what my mind was thriving to tell me, which is that all is love and fraternity, and I have a love for sharing my positivity, and that’s what I have to do for the rest of my life."

    Derreumaux had been broadcasting good vibes for the duration of the 2,400-mile journey via a blog he updated daily from the seat of his kayak. Often, he'd recall how certain songs stirred his emotions, then pass on a note of appreciation for his friends and followers: "Happy week end everyone! Love you all!" he wrote Aug. 20, 61 days into his trip.

    The 2,400-mile mid-Pacific crossing from California to Hawaii has drawn a number of seafarers in recent years — mostly rowers who set out solo or in small crews. Several have had success, but at least two people have died trying since 2019.

    Last week, Fremont rower Carlo Facchino, a friend and former crewmate of Derreumaux's, completed a 72-day solo row from San Francisco to Hilo, albeit with a brief assist at the end. In July, Half Moon Bay big-wave surfer Chris Bertish sailed into Oahu after 48 days on a one-of-a-kind wind-powered hydrofoil craft.

    What sets Derreumaux's adventure apart from others is his means of travel. Measuring only 2 feet wide, his carbon fiber kayak is much smaller, less stable and slower than burlier, oar-powered ocean rowboats. Because he needed to be within arm's reach of the water to use his paddle, Derreumaux's boat also left him more exposed to the slightest variations in surface conditions.

    Derreumaux is just the second kayaker to make the journey from California to Hawaii. The legendary sea kayaker Ed Gillet completed it in 63 days in 1987 — in miraculous fashion, without the aid of GPS or communications devices — but he was boosted by a kite affixed to his craft.

    Derreumaux, by comparison, outfitted his hull with a removable set of foot-pedal flippers, allowing him to toggle between pedaling and paddling and distinguishing his trip as purely human-powered.

    Three weeks into his voyage, Derreumaux wrote that he imagined Gillet paddling alongside him: "I guess this is what happens when you haven't seen a face in 22 days.”

    In a comment, the reclusive Gillet replied that he was eagerly following Derreumaux's journey:

    "I remember that ghostly companion feeling very well, and lots of solo adventurers have felt similar things," he wrote. "Reading your posts is really special to me because the feelings, sights, sounds, and anxieties that you describe so well echo my experiences those many years ago. Hang in there brother, the best days are just ahead."

    Derreumaux was greeted Tuesday at Hilo by his parents, friends and his longtime girlfriend, Ashley Redmond, who managed communications and social media for him during his trip.

    In contrast to Gillet, who was heralded as a maverick adventurer, Derreumaux views himself as an everyman and hopes to inspire people with his story, which will serve as the basis of a book he plans to write and a documentary film he is producing.

    "I want people to know that I'm just an ordinary guy," he said. "I hope people follow their dreams the same way. … Life is all about experience, not material possessions."

    Derreumaux said he'll relax on the island until the end of the month before returning to the Bay Area. He has lost 20 pounds while at sea and has barely stood up in more than 3 months.

    "I need at least 10 days of paradise, come on!"

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