cyril derreumaux
(Photo/Teresa O'Brien)

Rescued Last Year, Adventure Kayaker Tries California-to-Hawaii Paddle Again

Last year, an endurance kayaker required a rescue just 6 days into a 70-mile expedition. This summer, he’ll come back for more.

Only one person had ever successfully paddled from the California Bay Area to Honolulu, Hawaii, when Cyril Derreumaux tried to kayak alone in June 2021. That’s still the case now; his previous attempt ended in rescue and taught Derreumaux a few things, according to him.

Next week, he’ll paddle out for the same challenge again, intent on completing it.

cyril derreumaux
(Photo/Alexander Rooth)

SOS: 2021 Attempt Goes Awry

On June 6, 2021, a Coast Guard helicopter crew lowered a diver to rescue the stranded kayaker 70 miles west of Santa Cruz.

Per NBC Bay Area, things were not going well. Derreumaux had lost the anchor for his 23-foot boat, the anchor lines had gotten tangled up in the rudder, his GPS was malfunctioning, and he lurched with seasickness.

“As night had just fallen, it was clear that the situation was not sustainable: inability to eat, drink, sleep, communicate easily with my team ashore,” he reported via Facebook. “With my land support crew, we then reported the situation I was in to the U.S. Coast Guard to jointly explore all possible options.”

As Derreumaux ascended toward the helicopter, his beleaguered boat floated adrift in swells up to 14 feet and wind as strong as 35 knots.

He had spent 3 years preparing for the voyage.

Proceeding Again, Undaunted

Derreumaux appears to have taken the setback in stride — as a learning experience rather than a failure.

cyril derreumaux
(Photo/Teresa O’Brien)

“When it comes to learning about crossing an ocean as a solo person, you can read all the books you want; you can talk to all the people that have done it before, you can listen to all the podcasts you want, you can even have done it before as a team, there is nothing that will prepare you for what’s actually coming other than living through it,” Derreumaux told Honolulu’s KHON 2.

“That’s called experience, and it’s as raw as it gets, believe me.”

Derreumaux and ‘Valentine’ Look to Equal a Record

In early June, the 45-year-old father of two prepares to head out again on the same boat — christened “Valentine” after his sister.

Derreumaux’s journey will tackle 2,400 nautical miles of the Pacific Ocean. He’ll put in at Sausalito, Calif., at a marina in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge. If successful, he’ll become the second solo kayaker to complete the trip.

Derreumaux’s notably more advanced equipment will aid his potential success more than the first paddler’s kit did his. Ed Guillot, then 36, first accomplished the feat — in 1987 — on a conventional 20-foot double kayak. According to Explorersweb, concomitant challenges included sleep deprivation, high-octane painkiller side effects, and rudimentary gear.

Valentine, in comparison, looks like a cabin cruiser. And not only does she have a cabin but also updated communication and location technology, plus a bilge pump and several upgrades since the first attempt.

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Derreumaux’s kayak updates in the last year include:

  • Modification of the sea anchor system and its lines, as well as the rudder and daggerboard well
  • Installation of a satellite communication system with an external antenna, enabling him to make phone calls and emails from inside the cabin
  • Addition of custom side panels to prevent water breach in the cockpit
  • Addition of a manual bilge pump inside the cockpit to back up the (primary) electric unit

He also trained explicitly in high-wind scenarios — the same kind that led to last year’s rescue — off the coast of Santa Cruz.

“Designing the boat, having it custom built, improving it for months and months, doing sea trials after sea trials, I now am approaching the starting line again. I am happy with my equipment and gear; I know how to use them and repair them; now I just have to put it all together and make it happen,” Derreumaux said.

“It’s going to be terribly hard, but I will do my absolute best to make it a success.”

Completing the Trip

His goal after he reaches Honolulu? KHON 2 reported he’ll spend some peaceful days on the island, including quality time with the people he loves. Of course, after 70 salty days at sea, he doesn’t plan to spare the finer things in life while he recovers. A hot shower, dry sheets, a pillow, and ice cream make his list of recovery accouterments.

“These expeditions have the great benefits of reminding you on how good life is, at every level!” he said.

cyril derreumaux
(Photo/Teresa O’Brien)

Don’t we know it? Bon voyage, Cyril — see you on the beach.

The countdown on Derreumaux’s website says he’ll paddle out for Hawaii aboard Valentine on June 2 around noon local time. You can track his progress via livestream there.

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Sam Anderson
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Sam has roamed the American continent to follow adventures, explore natural wonders, and find good stories. After going to college to be a writer, he got distracted (or saved) by rock climbing and spent most of the next decade on the road, supporting himself with trade work. He's had addresses in the Adirondack Mountains, Las Vegas, and somehow Kansas, but his heart belongs in the Texas hill country.