WHEN HE WAS 8 YEARS OLD, Mexico's Abraham Levy went camping near the ocean with his family and dreamt of visiting all the beaches of his country. It's one thing to dream. It's another thing entirely to make a dream into reality. "I didn't know how I'd do it, but I didn't forget," Levy says. "Then, at 20, I discovered kayaking and it fit my style perfectly. I always like to be the engine with your muscles fueling your adventure." At 26, Levy began his 6,800-mile journey around Mexico. In just over a year of paddling, he dodged rattlesnakes, coyotes and migrating whales, and visited every rugged coastline and pristine beach in Mexico. - Joe Carberry
SOMETIMES I FELT LONELY OUT THERE. It's important to have strong emotional links with the people you really care about before trying something like this. You have enough things on your mind and you don't need something else to worry about. But thankfully, with technology, it's possible to be in touch everywhere. As part of my navigation plan I reported my position every 24 hours via satellite phone.
I HAD A REALLY CLOSE CALL PADDLING IN BAJA NEAR TODOS SANTOS. The winds were 35 knots with 21-foot waves. There were whales everywhere and they didn't know I was there because the conditions didn't allow them to hear me. I saw about six whales do a "spy hop"-incredibly beautiful! I was trying to take a picture when a gray whale appeared next to me. I could put my finger in its eye if I wanted. It didn't know I was there because of the expression of surprise in its eye when it saw me. It reacted, hitting me with its head. I thought about the Moby-Dick story when the whale destroyed a ship. Luckily, I just lost my camera and the whale put a hole in my kayak. I made it to shore, and the next day I met a surfboard shaper who fixed my boat for free.
I WOULD NORMALLY PADDLE ABOUT 25 MILES A DAY, about six to eight hours, depending on the wind and current. I set up my camp in many different places: sometimes in my hammock, in a sailboat in a marina, in the desert, in the jungle, or in a little fisherman's palapa. Once I just covered up with an emergency blanket in a sandstorm. I'd eat whatever I could pack from the local markets in the villages I'd pass. I'd also catch whatever fish I could.
I LEARNED TO KAYAK AT THE OLYMPIC FACILITIES IN MEXICO CITY, practicing in a slalom kayak, then in a river-runner while learning to roll, then on to some rivers in Veracruz, and finally to the sea. In the beginning I did small expeditions with other people--one week to 15 days. Then I started doing solo trips--first one week, then 15 days, then 22 days. I learned about survival, first aid, coastal navigation, and to prepare psychologically for the challenge. That was six years before the big expedition. Contacting sponsors was tough because they didn't believe me. But dreams are never easy in the beginning.
-- Look for info on an upcoming book and documentary on Levy's trip at Abrahamlevy.com
The above piece first appeared in the July 2009 issue of Canoe and Kayak magazine