By Piotr Chmielinski
On May 29th, 2016, Aleksander “Olek” Doba will begin his third Atlantic crossing in the 21-foot yellow kayak he calls ‘Olo.’ Unlike his two previous expeditions, this time the 69-year-old adventurer will paddle eastward, starting near the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor and ending in Lisbon, Portugal–where he began his second transatlantic voyage three years ago. In this way he intends to complete his Atlantic expeditions and close the loop with continent-to-continent crossings from Europe to North America, and back again.
“From the beginning, I have always wanted to complete my transatlantic adventure in three expeditions. The first one, from Africa to South America, the second one from South America to North America, and finally, the third expedition, from North America to Europe,” Olek says.
The idea of Olek’s great adventure was born during his first atlantic crossing in 2010-2011. At that time he covered the shortest continent-to-continent route from the old world to the new, starting in Senegal and ending in Brazil.
Three years later, Olek again crossed the Atlantic, on a more demanding route from Lisbon to Florida. The trip, which was voted the 2014 C&K Expedition of the Year, is the longest Atlantic kayak crossing in history and established Olek as dean of the Transatlantic Kayak Club.
So now, it is time for the planned closure of the long loop with the northern crossing of the Atlantic from the United States to Europe.
This year’s trip will likely prove to be much more difficult than the previous ones due to the adverse conditions through which Olek will be paddling. The characteristics for this part of the ocean are cold, frequent storms, and very high waves. It seems, though, that for Aleksander Doba these may not be real obstacles, since he has always emphasized that he prefers the chill to the heat! After the last trip, he is well seasoned for the battles with the Atlantic storms and high waves. During that trip, he was battered by one storm after another but still was able to marvel at their overwhelming beauty.
Because of the risks posed by the third expedition, Olek’s experiences from his previous trips across the Atlantic are crucial for his success. The past experiences that will stand him in good stead relate to kayak adaptation to the conditions in the ocean, careful preparation of the equipment and communication systems, as well as the ability to survive alone for many months.
The third transatlantic expedition has one more important goal, quite unusual, but enviable. With this expedition, Aleksander Doba will be celebrating his 70th birthday, which comes in September of this year. He would like to prove that with strong determination, consistent action and persistence it is possible to overcome time and human weaknesses. Indomitable spirit and youthful imagination, pushing for the realization of dreams and plans, despite the passage of years, remain unchanged for Olek.
“95 percent of people die in bed,” he says. “So why lie down?”