Cyril Derreumaux has completed his solo kayak from California to Hawaii. He arrived in Hilo minutes ago after 92 days at sea. He is only the second person to make the arduous journey by kayak.
Derreumaux set out from Monterey on June 21, accompanied by well-wishers paddling a few strokes alongside him. Then three months of solitary effort. He had originally hoped to complete the 4,444 km in 70 days but difficult conditions slowed his progress.
A difficult start
For the first few weeks, headwinds pushed him in the wrong direction. The daily battle was to not lose distance rather than to progress. The constant swell made him seasick and he felt very weak. The second week, the tube holding his steering line disconnected and let water into the cabin.
Then after 46 days, his watermaker broke down. From there, in addition to rowing 10 to 12 hours a day, he also spent an hour to an hour and a half manually generating fresh water. He also spent several days of bad weather in his small cabin, on sea anchor.
It quickly became clear that the journey would take over 70 days. Halfway through, he began rationing food. Although he calculated 6,000 calories a day to fuel all that rowing, he quickly lost weight, even before rationing. With that, he began to doubt if he would make it in time.
At the end of August, it decided to change its Hawaiian endpoint. Rather than landing in Waikiki, he redirected to Hilo. This cut six days of paddling from the trip and meant he had enough food to cover the distance without having to resort to consuming toothpaste, as the first Californian-Hawaiian kayaker, Ed Gillet, had done.
Music, Seinfeld and dolphins
Derreumaux amused himself by almost constantly listening to music. Before leaving, he even downloaded Seinfeld to watch at night, when he wasn’t rowing.
He also enjoyed watching the dolphins around the boat. By the end, hundreds of them had come to visit us. In recent days, he even had a mahi-mahi following him.
“A mahi-mahi pet fish followed me all day, I loved it!” he wrote on social media. “[It] left me yesterday morning. I guess he didn’t like it when I played Celine Dion.“
As the trip progressed, Derreumaux became more relaxed and attuned to his surroundings. He found not seeing himself in a mirror to be a “very liberating experience”. He also established a sort of symbiosis with his custom-built boat valentine.
“I know her so well now,” he said. “I know how she behaves in what type of water, I know all the noises she makes and what they mean, I could find anything in the dark…it’s very special.”
The inspiration of Ed Gillet
Ed Gillet’s original 1987 trip first inspired Derreumaux. Gillet was much less high-tech. He used a ready-made kayak – no sleeping cabin, no extended storage – and had no means of communication for most of the trip. After three weeks at sea, Derreumaux said: “I am more in awe of Ed Gillet and what he accomplished [than ever].”
He first attempted the trip in 2021 but needed rescue after five days. Storms and swells damaged his boat and caused water to leak into the cabin. The conditions expected to worsen, he abandoned the crossing.
But despite this embarrassing end, Derreumaux channeled the failure to improve his technique and his boat.
He modified the sea anchor system, installed a satellite communication system and added both a manual bilge pump and side panels to keep water out of the cockpit. He also trained to better understand the behavior of his kayak in strong winds.
It wasn’t Derreumaux’s first time crossing the ocean from California to Hawaii. In 2016, he and his teammates broke the rowing speed record at the Great Pacific Race. The four-man team covered the approximately 4,500 km from Monterey, California to Oahu, Hawaii in 39 days, 9 hours and 56 minutes.