Landfall: Antonio De La Rosa Completes Standup Paddling’s First Pacific Crossing

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De La Rosa, landing at Honolulu's Waikiki Yacht Club Saturday August 24.Photo: Tony Heff

The choice for Antonio De La Rosa was obvious: Order the half-pounder.

The lunch request was simple to field after the 50-year-old Spanish adventurer stepped onto the docks of the Waikiki Yacht Club yesterday morning. There the Honolulu club’s commodore officially stamped his time of 8:30 a.m. — a formality to officially enshrine his feat in any record books, having just crossed the eastern North Pacific Ocean alone and unsupported from his June 9 launch in San Francisco. Sure it was great moment to paddle past Diamond Head as the sun rose, and then cruise with a small pod of paddlers outside the Waikiki surf. But how about that cheeseburger?

De La Rosa found some shade to enjoy the half-pound mess with every topping, still beaming.

If you didn’t know that De La Rosa had just paddled approximately 2,900 miles standing upright over the last 11 weeks, you likely wouldn’t know.

“He is all stoke, full of energy,” said Galen Licht, a San Francisco-based outfitter on hand for the landing after helping launch the voyage. “He just told me ‘I’ll take a siesta and then party tonight!'”

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De La Rosa, on his self-funded customized craft with an open deck, tapering to 35 inches in width, to allow for upright paddling. Photo: Tony Heff

De La Rosa has reason to celebrate. His solo crossing from the mainland U.S. to Hawaii is history’s first exclusively using paddle power. It’s also the first successful paddle-powered crossing in 32 years nearly to day. In late August 1987, San Diego’s Ed Gillet landed in Maui after a 64-day crossing from Monterey in a modified tandem sea kayak (Gillet relied on the use of a small para-foil kite, though lack of prevailing winds prevented him from using it more than a couple weeks).

De La Rosa’s route (seen below) followed a similar path to Gillet’s, though the final weeks provided challenging for De La Rosa to maintain progress south toward the 21st parallel north, and his target island of Oahu.

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Upon sighting land on August 20, De La Rosa rode tailwinds across the top of Molokai. His final 24 hours to the finish also provided some of the trip’s most harrowing moments “of concern and uncertainty,” he wrote in his daily video log on Instagram, where a strong wind surprised him in the dark of night, pushing him north toward the rocky shore of Koko Head at the southeastern end of the island. As he deployed sea anchors and waited out his landing approach until dawn of his 77th day at sea, he then battled sidewinds forcing him nearly into the surf zone.

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Fortunately, he had some support. A skiff from the yacht club carrying a few expedition supporters, plus a handful of local paddlers went out to accompany De La Rosa.

“He was belting out sounds of joy, yelling ‘Hello!’ with a lot of excitement,” said Licht, who paddled out as the first to greet De La Rosa after nearly three months with only a digital tether (via a satellite internet) to other humans. “It was a cool scene with outrigger paddlers out training paddling up alongside of him — whether they knew what he’d just done or figured it out, you could see the respect.”

With the boost from the growing pod, De La Rosa took a straight line just outside the surf. The degree of difficulty nailing that final push should not be understated given the scale a 24-foot-long custom-built craft, designed with a forward cabin, loaded with his gear, provisions and a 4-foot, 65-pound dagger board to keep it from capsizing.

Once in the harbor, and his first step on on terra firma (pictured below). De La Rosa looked tanned and tired but didn’t make it known as his amicable personality and endless well of positive energy had not yet slowed. During the trip, Antonio announced he’d be departing Honolulu for Fiji, flying over to immediately compete in the selective Mark Burnett/Amazon-produced Eco Challenge expedition race starting Sept. 5. De La Rosa’s craft (which he hopes to ship back to Spain) looked no worse for the wear either, as he took opportunities in warmer climes to dive underneath and clean its hull three times. He experienced no significant injuries, zero broken paddles, and his craft had no breakdowns or electronic malfunctions.

[IN HIS WORDS: WATCH AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH DE LA ROSA FROM THE WAIKIKI DOCKS, RUNNING THROUGH THE ESSENTIALS OF THE CRAFT THAT GOT HIM THERE]

Not that the journey was without struggles, most especially in the immediate weeks after his early June departure under the Golden Gate.

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His live GPS tracker tells the tale of extra mileage and days of attrition, losing all progress made west due to the onshore wind and current conditions that conspire against trans-Pacific voyagers, pushing ocean travelers to southern latitudes where winds eventually begin to blow from more easterly directions. Despite the additional days it added on to his original projection of 70, De La Rosa still had 20 days left of meal rations. However, after 76 sunsets at sea, his few stowed Tecates — cracked along the way to maintain morale — were long gone, as were all of his packed breakfast meals.

He was definitely ready for a cold beer and that half-pound burger.

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De La Rosa, ready for his first fresh meal in over 76 days at sea. Photo: Tony Heff

— Follow De La Rosa online and on Instagram, plus trip supporter and SUP expedition outfitter Sea Trek.

The article was originally published on Standup Paddling

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