Monday evening update: Nicolas encountered high drama on just the second day of his voyage, deploying his emergency beacon after his rudder broke and the board capsized. Fortunately he was able to safely return to shore with the help of Cape Verde’s coast guard. Nicolas will now inspect the damage and plan when and how to re-start his record-setting attempt to cross the Atlantic. Follow the Transatlantic SUP page on Facebook for official updates.
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The first ever Atlantic SUP crossing has begun. Just hours ago, Frenchman Nicolas Jarossay started his 4,690km (2,915 miles) journey, which will see him paddle his 21ft board all day every day for the next 2-3 months as he makes his way across the Atlantic from Cape Verde (off the north west coast of Africa) to the Caribbean island of Martinique.
Nicolas departed Cape Verde at noon on Sunday under sunny skies, with a stiff breeze at his back helping guide his very long (and very heavy) board out into the wide open expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. If all goes to plan, the next time he sees land will be at the end of June…
As if this monumental project wasn’t challenging enough already: The crossing will be completely SOLO. There will be no support boats, no supply drops, and Nicolas will eat/sleep/live on (or rather: in) his specially designed board.
I met Nicolas at the Paris Crossing back in December, and I got the impression he was a very humble, very down to earth, but also very serious and determined guy. The firefighter has a young family waiting for him back in France, so it’s not like he’s a reckless adrenaline junkie; Indeed, the preparations for his Atlantic SUP crossing have been years in the making, including a couple of short trial runs where Nicolas lived on his board off the coast of France for several days at a time and tested all his equipment.
As for the crazy stand up paddle board that Nicolas will be calling home for the next 70-80 days; I got to see the first version of it up close in Paris (he recently had a second board shaped to improve on the design) and while it’s definitely an impressive feat of engineering, I doubt Nicolas will be getting many comfortable night’s sleeps in the next few months. There is an enclosed “cabin” at the front where he’ll sleep, with another enclosure at the rear to store food and equipment.
While Nicolas is carrying all of his food and equipment on board, he only has about a week of emergency water supplies; the rest will be sourced from a pump that converts saltwater to drinking water. The only snag: It’s a manual hand pump, so it’ll take Nicolas 1-2 hours of work each morning to produce his daily 8 liters of water. An electric desalination pump was considered too heavy to carry on board, though at least he does have a second manual pump as a backup in case the first one breaks in the middle of nowhere (he also has half a dozen backup paddles just in case).
While the trade winds will make Nicolas’ journey somewhat easier (see the pic above from his first few miles earlier today – looks like a solid little downwinder!), there is a risk of serious drifting overnight or during storms. To counter this, Nicolas will deploy a “sea anchor” (kind of like a water parachute) while he’s resting or sleeping, which will keep the board somewhat stationary.
As if carrying all that equipment on board wasn’t enough, there’s also the small matter of bringing approximately 75kgs (165 pounds) of food along for the ride, enough to last Nicolas roughly 75 days. Apart from several emergency radio beacons, there’s also a special survival suit stored on board, which will keep the Frenchman going for several days in case he has to abandon ship.
I’ve been around the sport of stand up paddling for a while now, but this has gotta be one of the most extraordinary things I’ve ever seen. It’s equal parts inspiring, crazy and just downright awesome.
Nicolas will try and provide a daily GPS update, so hopefully we can follow his history-making journey as it happens.
Good luck Nicolas, this is one extraordinarily brave attempt to create history…