by Durrie Lawrence
Update Aug 9 According to Vidmar’s spokesman, Wave came down with a stomach bug on Saturday and decided to postpone the launch. He has not yet determined when he will set off, but hopes to leave in the coming days.
Update Aug 7 Still no-go for Wave Vidmar:
Widmar and his rep have not returned KQED phone calls regarding his revised plans.
Wave Vidmar plans to paddle a kayak across the Pacific Ocean, from California to Hawaii. If he succeeds, the 3,100 mile, two-month long trip will be the furthest open-water solo kayak crossing in recorded history. [Monday update: Vidmar reportedly delayed his planned start on Sunday. We're checking on his revised plans.]
Vidmar—an assumed name, which means "to look over the sea"— plans to launched the expedition from Bodega Bay on Sunday morning. He’ll make the trip with a modified tandem kayak that he calls Aura.
The California-to-Hawaii trip has been completed only once before by a solo kayaker. In 1987, Ed Gillet paddled 2,200 miles from his put-in in Monterey Bay.
Vidmar hopes to break Gillet’s record by roughly 900 nautical miles. He expects the trip to take between 45 and 65 days.
In the weeks leading up to the launch, Vidmar used a friend's backyard in Oakland as a staging area for the boat. All his equipment, including about 500 pounds of freeze-dried food, will fit into the hull of the 22-foot x 2-foot kayak. At night, Vidmar will scoot down inside and place a cover over the top to sleep.
“I’ve spent a lot of mental preparation on that aspect of being in such a confined space,” he said. “We take for granted how much mobility we have every day.”
To prepare the kayak for open sea living, Vidmar made some innovations and improvements of his own. A repurposed plastic jug becomes a travel-sized washing machine. And he has developed custom-made battery chargers that are powered by flexible, travel-sized solar panels that he can lay over the boat.
The electricity will power a waterproof, ultra durable laptop and a satellite phone. Vidmar will be able to send updates and tweets, and even watch movies during downtime.
Among the "mission critical" items is a military-grade manual water maker, which filters seawater to make it drinkable. He has adapted it so he can pump it with his feet while paddling the kayak.
"It was designed to be used in a lifeboat," Vidmar said. “When I told the company what I was going to do, they first said 'Look, this isn’t designed for it but we know you’re going to use it anyway. So let’s help you get the best performance out of it.’”
Vidmar will also be collecting data for ocean research. An accelerometer mounted behind his seat will measure g-forces as the kayak goes over the waves.
“Nobody’s ever measured what kind of forces go on in a kayak out in big water, open ocean,” Vidmar said. He’ll also be gathering water samples as he goes along.
This isn’t Vidmar’s first foray into extreme traveling. In 2004, he trekked from Siberia to the North Pole in a solo expedition.
Long distance open-water crossings are rare for solo kayakers. In 2007, Andrew McAuley died in an attempt to paddle from Tasmania to New Zealand. His body was never found.