Ed Gilette

Happened to catch this man on an old Johnny Carson last night. He discussed his at the time recent trip from California to Hawaii. Remarkable to see that using nothing more than basic navigation tools and a tandem kayak he could attempt and survive such a monumental trip. Remarkable achievement.

Yes, kayakers were made out of a different material back then where there was no way to get help.

Today when someone take on a kayak ocean crossing, they have satellite phones, internet connection, PLBs and other stuff so they can call for help.

If stories like this have your interest, you may also want to read up on Hannes Lindemann, a German doctor who crossed the Atlantic Ocean in the fifties in a Klepper folding kayak. Or Oscar Speck who paddled from Germany to Australia in the thirties in another folding kayak. (Apparently something is going on with those Germans and their folding kayaks.)

Last year I had the pleasure of being coached by Nigel Foster who also spent his evening telling us about his 1981 kayak expedition attempting to paddle from Iqaluit, a few hundred kilometers south of the arctic circle, to Resolution Island. This expedition was not nearly as long as those mentioned above, but it was a lot colder. He told about one occasion where he was thrown off course and lost his heading because he thought he had been paddling toward a fixpoint on land far away, but it turned out to be a moving iceberg. Eventually he had to abort the expedition on a non-populated island, Killiniq Island, where he by pure luck was rescued by an oil tanker.

Ed Gillet was/is certainly an interesting character, he must be in his late 60s now. I don’t think he ever finished a book he was going to write about the trip. He owned a paddling shop on Mission Bay in San Diego for several years and was not really into warm and fuzzy relations with the customers. I always thought he was a bit gruff, but I have heard stories that take that to the extreme, don’t know if they are true. I know several kayakers who knew him well. He’s the real deal, no bullshit, and probably not what makes glamorous kayakers like the Nigels, Dereks, Freyas and Junstines popular.

That was one of Johnny’s BEST shows, and shows how interested he was in Ed. He was so impressed and mesmerized by this story that he cancelled the rest of the guest. Here is that Carson show interview for those interested in watching. I was filmed only a week or so after he paddled to Maui. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZQgQM53zIM

Here is also the C&K magazine interview with Ed a few years ago:

Thank you for posting that show!

I had read Ed’s short (very short) written account of the trip. If he had written a book, it would have been devoured by thousands of paddlers. I guess he didn’t keep a journal, or it probably would have been written by now, or at least ghost-written.

Thanks to all that provided additional information and posting the youtube of the show.
I was in Newport RI in '76 when the OSTAR sailing race came over and was awed by the guys that single handed sailed very small boats from England to USA. What this man did makes that look luxurious. I guess if I wanted I could sail my Hobie tri most anywhere!

Ed Gillet is 66 this year and lives in San Diego-- he still tweets regularly: https://twitter.com/edgillet?lang=en

Not to be confused with Ned Gillette, a world class Alpine mountaineer and expedition cross country skier from Idaho who was killed on an expedition in Northern Kashmir in 1998.

I took my first intro lesson from Ed and am grateful to him for getting me hooked on this life of kayaking. My experience with him was that he was amiable and somewhat reserved. I don’t doubt your experience Seadart, but just saying mine was different. He was indeed no BS, whether leading a trip or talking about kayaks or gear in his shop. It didn’t seem like retail was his thing. He was a water guy. He was not one to toot his own horn about his accomplishments but you could get him talking in the right circumstances. I found his dry humor amusing. He is mostly remembered for his Hawaii trip but he also did the length of Baja, the Pacific Coast of South America, and the Inside Passage. He led lots of trips in Baja and the Channel Islands. I have the selection of maps that he published of Baja intended for kayakers. I did a few Mexico trips with him and a Catalina crossing & circumnav. He could be a great storyteller around the campfire. I remember one trip when he took his freediving gear along. While everyone was setting up their camp or beachcombing, he went diving & shot a Yellowtail for dinner. We had sashimi off a driftwood log and Yellowtail steaks cooked in the coals. Too bad his shop closed. He & Katie had problems with the lease and with the major remodel of those shops that was being done. I still have a t-shirt from his shop with the motto from his Hawaii trip: “Paddle or Die.” Waxing a bit sentimental here - I miss the guy.

I did not have any bad experiences at Ed’s store. My oldest son and rented kayaks at his shop for our first two kayak paddles in San Diego when we moved here. I think that was about 1999. I do remember him being very impatient with some customers but maybe he was having a string of bad days. Owning my own small business I can certainly relate to bad days and good. The Johnny Carson clip was fantastic. He certainly looks happy in his twitter posts, looks like he has found a niche he enjoys in teaching. Wish he would write the book.

I wish he would write the book, too.

Never met him myself, but someone I had paddled with a couple times took a surf-related class with him because she (and her BF) wanted to paddle in Baja. She said he referred to them as “pond paddlers” before even seeing them paddle, just because they were from Colorado. After actually seeing them on the water, he kinda had to take those words back.