Seventy-six days. Five hours. Twenty-two minutes. That’s how long it took for Spanish endurance athlete Antonio de la Rosa to voyage across the winds and currents of the Pacific Ocean, with only the help of his 24-foot long trusty stand-up paddle board, The Ocean Defender.
His journey of self-described “absolute loneliness and self-sufficiency” began in San Francisco on June 4. De la Rosa embarked from the docks of Sea Trek, a Sausalito-based kayaking business that hosted him before he left on the expedition.
He paddled just over 2,900 miles to his Honolulu destination with the aim of raising awareness about protecting the ocean from man-made pollution.
“SAVE the OCEAN,” the side of his boat reads. “NO plastics, NO nets, RECYCLE.”
The front hatch of the boat provided him with sleeping quarters, and the back had a large storage space for his provisions and necessary tools. He says he had to clear barnacles off the hull three times over the course of the journey.
But the hardest part of de la Rosa’s unique expedition turned out to be the very last day.
“The last 24 hours were of concern and uncertainty,” he wrote in a translated Facebook post. As he navigated between the islands of Molokai and Oahu, he was surprised by a strong wind that pushed him dangerously close to the rocky coast. He barely slept that night as he tried to keep his boat on course.
Yet, de la Rosa persevered through the precarious moments of his expedition, and even spent his 50th birthday challenging the choppy waters. It was all worth it once he finally reached the shore Saturday morning, greeted by a pink and orange Hawaiian sunrise and an embrace from Sea Trek’s Galen Licht— the first person he had seen in two and a half months.
De la Rosa was the first person to ever cross the Pacific Ocean on a stand-up paddleboard, but his other feats include racing across the Atlantic Ocean in a solo rowing vessel and canoeing across all eight Canary Islands. Solo travel is de la Rosa’s speciality — he says it doesn’t have to be isolating.
“Going alone does not mean being alone,” he said.