Pioneers of Sea Kayaking, incredible!

-- Last Updated: Apr-23-09 7:08 PM EST --

In researching the pioneers of kayaking challenges I was shocked to understand the sheer magnitude of these endevours, beginning with the Inuit people. (Wikipedia) I have never seen these expeditions listed in one place before. Worth a view, imo.

And a link to 60 minute video of recent crossing Australia to NZ

There is controversial evidence to suggest early trans-atlantic kayak journeys from Labrador or Greenland to Scotland by Inuit paddlers. Indeed at the end of the 17th century, there were at least three separate kayaks preserved in Scotland. One kayak, with associated equipment, is preserved in the Aberdeen Museum, where it was captured, with dieing occupant, on the nearby shore. Some suggest the occupants were escaped Inuit from European ships, Inuit storm driven from Greenland, or a European source. Many suggest Inuit and their kayaks to be the origin of the Celtic Finnman, or Selkie, legends. [15]

Pioneering sea kayak expeditions

Franz Romer crossed the Atlantic Ocean solo in a kayak in 1928. His crossing from the Canary Islands and Puerto Rico took 58 days at sea but he was lost in a hurricane trying to get to New York[5].
Oskar Speck paddled from Germany to Australia in 1932-1939.
Hannes Lindemann paddled, with the help of a sail, from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean in 1956. Documented in the book "Alone at sea"[6].
Derek Hutchinson was the first to cross the North sea in 1976 after several near-death failures he finally managed it in 31 hours[7].
Nigel Foster and Geoff Hunter were the first to circumnavigate Iceland in 1977.
Frank Goodman was the first to circumnavigate Cape Horn in 1977.
Paul Caffyn was the first person to circumnavigate the South Island of New Zealand in 1977. He describes it in his book Obscured by Waves.
Paul Caffyn and Nigel Dennis were the first sea kayakers to circumnavigate Britain in 1980, a distance of 2,200 miles (3,500 km) in 85 days
David Taylor and James Moore were the first to circumnavigate The Faroe Islands (mid way between Shetland and Iceland) in 1985.
Paul Caffyn was the first person to circumnavigate Australia in 1981/2 covering a distance of 9,420 miles (17,400 km)
Ed Gillet paddled from California to Hawaii in 1987.
Adventurer Chris Duff has circumnavigated both Ireland in 1996 and New Zealand's South Island in 2000.
The crossing of Europe by various rivers in 1998.[8]
Jon Turk and his team was the first to cross the Bering strait as they paddled from Japan to Alaska in 2000.[9].
In his book Cold Oceans (1999), Jon Turk describes his solo circumnavigation of Cape Horn[10].
Peter Bray crossed from Canada to Ireland in 2001.
Trys Morris, Gemma Rawlings and Justine Curgenven successfully circumnavigated Tasmania in 2004. This journey is featured in This Is The Sea 2
Harry Whelan, Barry Shaw and Phil Clegg are considered to have been the fastest around Britain in 2005, completing the circumnavigation in 80 days
In November 2005 the first kayak circumnavigation of South Georgia in the Southern Atlantic was completed in 18 days, a distance of 600 km [11].
Eric Stiller and Tony Brown attempted circumnavigation of Australia. Described in the book Keep Australia on your left.
Andrew McAuley, an Australian solo kayaker, was lost at sea in October 2007 only 40 miles short of his destination of Milford Sound, New Zealand, during his attempt to cross from Australia to New Zealand.[1]
Justin Jones and James Castrission made the first crossing from Australia to New Zealand, arriving on 13 January 2008, a journey that took 61 days. This is the longest two man kayak expedition ever undertaken.[12]
In 2009 there are 2 separate expeditions attempting to circumnavigate the Falkland Islands. One British team[13] and Marcus Demuth, a solo American.[14]

Sea Kayaking expeditions
Thanks for the interesting list. Enjoyed reviewing it. A couple of additional points worth mentioning.

While most of the list is of “firsts”, there is a repeat of the circumnavigation of Britain.

I don’t know how Freya’s self promotions escaped you, but she has done some impressive expeditions (not “firsts”), both with partners and alone. She is presently doing a circumnavigating of Australia. This feat has been accomplished only once before and dwarfs most of the others listed in terms of time, distance, difficulty and danger.

I think it is also worth mentioning Verlen Kruger, who with different partners paddled from near the Arctic circle to Cape Horn of South America in trips of 7,000, 28,000 and 21,000 miles. These trips were accomplished in decked canoes, using single blade paddles. His decked canoes more resemble a normal kayak than some of the craft used in trips cited.


Thanks for sharing
I would add some more.

John Macgreggors trips in the Rob Roy

The New Zealand crossings of Cook Strait in the 1890’s

And Justine & friends circumnavigation of Tasmania wasn’t the first which was in 1979 by Brewster and Bloomfield

Makes us wonder about all the stuff
we don’t know about! Turks book “In the wake of the Jomon” really hit me. Adventure is what it’s all about.

Nigel Foster
I got the chance to paddle with Nigel Foster for a day in the surf. It was like hanging out with the Yoda of kayaking.

Incredible dynamic balance
Nigel is blessed by incredible talent and a great deal of dedication to his sport. He has unbelievable dynamic balance, calmness under duress, and deft moves.

Quite the paddler and a really good educator too I must say. I have an educator background and I really see how clear, effective, knowledge based and organized his teaching methods are.

Yes, makes most of us realize what a really great paddler is.

This bit is wrong:
“Jon Turk and his team was the first to cross the Bering strait as they paddled from Japan to Alaska in 2000.[9].”

A couple friends of mine beat him by at least a decade. Additionally, Alexander Zee Grant paddled much of the Green and Colorado river in a foldable sea kayak back in 1941. It’s not the sea but the difficulty ought to to rate somewhere.


Feats on rivers as well as on the sea
Thanks for adding MacGregor to the list. I have a copy of his 1871 book "A Thousand Miles In The Rob Roy. In most peoples eyes he was the father of recreational paddling.

During the 28,000 mile Ultimate Canoe Challenge,Verlen Kruger and Steve Landick paddled up the entire Mississippi and up the Colorado River all the way through the Grand Canyon.


His style of teaching is what really caught me also, soft spoken, technical, with some jokes to put you at ease and what not…But then he brings it in surf like an animal.

submit it to wiki
this is important. perhaps you might submit it to wikipedia as a correction???


Ed Gillet
All of those feats are staggering, but the most amazing to me is Ed Gillet’s 63 day 2200 mile paddle from California to Hawaii. No GPS, support boat(s) or plane(s), no satellite phone. Only a small VHF radio to contact passing boats, a sextant, and a small calculator.

Can you imagine paddling out of Monterey Bay and aiming for the relatively small target of Hawaii in the midst of a vast ocean?

My favorite part of his description of his voyage was the 63rd day of the trip, at which point he had been without food for three days when: “I was taking my usual noon latitude sight. When I swung my sextant to look at the southern horizon, I was annoyed by the mountain filling my sextant viewfinder and fouling up my view of the horizon line. “That damned mountain…” I thought. Seconds later, I realized I was looking at land! That dark mountain had to be Mauna Kea, 80 miles away on the big island of Hawaii.”

Here is a History Guy update on Oskar Speck’s incredible pre-WWII paddle from Germany to Australia.

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Thanks a lot for posting these stories. Stories like these have always been very motivating for me.
Mr. Jon Turk is one tough character. He is one of my favorite authors and I have only read “Cold Oceans” so far. I wish that I have half of his courage.
My favorite book is “A Speck on the Sea” by Longyard, which details a few of these adventures (but covers mostly ocean crossings in small sailboats).

Don Starkell, my hero, a hero to many, and a Canadian paddling champion, should be mentioned (although his greatest journey from Canada to Brazil was in a canoe). I have read his two books a number of times. They are written in diary form, which I think draws the reader in even more. Think of Dennis Hopper’s character in “Apocalyps Now”. “What will they say? That he was a brave man, that he was a wise man? That he was kind?” There just are not words to describe someone like that.
I think most of us would chose a kayak over a canoe in most conditions except maybe smaller (narrower) rivers.

Hi Does anyone know the route or description of the route that David Taylor and James Moore used in 1985, was it a complete circumnavigation of all the coastline on all islands or a great circle around the islands?

“David Taylor and James Moore were the first to circumnavigate The Faroe Islands (mid way between Shetland and Iceland) in 1985.”

or does anyone have contact info on David Taylor and James Moore, so that, we could get the story documented? it would be of great interest for the kayaking community in the Faroe Islands.