San Francisco Chronicle - (Sunday)

Marin kayaker to paddle to Hawaii

- By Gregory Thomas

As Cyril Derreumaux navigated his kayak beneath the Golden Gate Bridge on a sunny afternoon, a humpback whale breached beside his boat, spraying him with salty mist.

“I took that as a good omen,” he said.

In late May, Derreumaux, a 44yearold

Frenchborn entreprene­ur who lives in Larkspur, will launch into the adventure of a lifetime: an openocean solo paddle, 2,400 nautical miles from Sausalito to Hawaii. He’s planning for a 70day excursion, alone on the Pacific in his 23foot boat.

The custommade craft weighs about 400 pounds and is composed of a cork core armored with carbon fiber. It is designed to selfright if it capsizes and has a small cabin just big enough for Derreumaux to squeeze into for sleeping, escaping the elements and riding out storms.

He calls it Valentine, named for his sister, who, he says, “is a dreamer like me.”

It’ll be loaded with about 300 pounds of gear and supplies: electronic­s for navigating and communicat­ing, two water desalinato­rs, and freezedrie­d meals and smoothie powders. Plus, two iPhones filled with podcasts, ebooks, music and movies.

“I’m bringing all the seasons of ‘Seinfeld,’ ” Derreumaux said. “If you end up in a storm for a few days, you can feel stuck. I think it’d be good to have

something humorous.”

Fully loaded, Derreumaux’s seat will be about 5 inches above the waterline. It’ll be a true kayaking adventure.

He will propel himself through the ocean with an 87inchlong paddle — no oars or oar locks — as well as a pair of special flippers mounted to the hull and powered by footpedals. It’s an unconventi­onal setup, but Derreumaux says he’s not angling for a world record or conforming to the expectatio­ns of paddling purists who might frown on his methods.

“I’m the one in the seat. I’m the one paddling 24/7. It’s my adventure, so I’ll do it the way I want,” he said. Plus, working pedals will help ward off lowerbody muscle atrophy common among paddlers and rowers on long journeys. There have been many attempts to row the Pacific from California to Hawaii — including Santa Cruz rower Lia Ditton’s successful 86day odyssey last year — but few kayakers opt for the undertakin­g, Derreumaux says. If he finishes, Derreumaux believes he will be second, behind

San Diego paddler Ed Gillet, who completed the first solo kayak — from Monterey to Maui — in 1987.

“What he’s attempting is almost going into uncharted territory for a kayak of that caliber,” said Carlo Facchino of Fremont, a friend of Derreumaux’s who is his coach for the trip. Facchino said the challenge will be mentally taxing as much as physically exhausting.

“It’s: Are you prepared to be miserable for 60 days?” he said.

Facchino met Derreumaux when they crewed together in 2016 for the Great Pacific Race, a rowing showdown among hardcore athletes that starts in California and ends in Hawaii. The two men, part of a fourperson crew, won the race, setting a Guinness World Record in the process.

Apart from the race, Derreumaux’s open ocean experience is limited. He trains by tracing circuits around San Francisco Bay. Last year, when the pandemic took hold, he embarked on a nineday trip, paddling 325 miles down the Sacramento River from Redding to the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Hawaii excursion will be his greatest challenge yet.

“There’s nothing I’ve done like this,” Derreumaux said. “Being solo in the ocean is really pushing the limits for me.”

 ?? Thomas Gomes / Special to the Chronicle ?? Cyril Derreumaux of Larkspur paddles outside the Golden Gate Bridge during a training session.
Thomas Gomes / Special to the Chronicle Cyril Derreumaux of Larkspur paddles outside the Golden Gate Bridge during a training session.
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