First-Ever Solo Transatlantic SUP Expedition Attempt To Launch January 2016
38-year-old French firefighter planning first-ever solo SUP expedition across Atlantic, Africa to Caribbean
Meet Nicolas Jarossay—38-year-old French paddler, firefighter and soon to be the first person to attempt an unsupported crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, via SUP.
In January 2016, Jarossay plans to paddle 2,485 miles (4,000 kilometers) from the northwest coast of Africa to the French island of Martinique in the Caribbean, with only his gear, provisions, a very unique standup paddleboard and a deep, lionhearted sense of adventure. He expects to paddle an average of 33 miles (53 kilometers) each day, estimating the voyage will take a total of roughly 75 days to complete.
“I’ve read a lot of stories of different navigators,” Jarossay said. “Since I was a child, I have loved the wide-open ocean.”
Throughout the past couple years, Jarossay’s love affair with the ocean evolved into a desire to be the first person to cross it using only manpower and a paddleboard. He began methodically planning the expedition in 2012, using his extensive experience with the ocean to carefully develop the design for a unique prototype board that is apparently the world’s first “livable” SUP.
“Myself and two others have taken about one year to come up with the best design for my board,” Jarossay said.
The board is over 20 feet long and features storage compartments for over 200 pounds of dried food and a “sleeping pod” for resting or staying dry in the case of a storm. It certainly looks unlike any SUP we’ve ever seen before, which is suitable, considering the unprecedented expedition for which it’s built.
To those familiar with the industry, it may come as a surprise that Jarossay, rather than renowned expedition paddler Bart de Zwart, is going to be the first man to attempt this feat. But that does not mean it hasn’t crossed De Zwart’s mind a few times.
“I have had the plan to cross for a long time,” De Zwart said. “Since I have sailed around the world with my family and crossed the Atlantic multiple times, it was not far fetched to think of doing the Atlantic by SUP.”
However, De Zwart is a family man and decided that at least for now, the stress this type of expedition would put on his wife was simply not worth it. But he still believes a solo crossing is possible, as long as that person is fully-prepared.
“I do think it is very doable to paddle across,” De Zwart said. “It is just a question of time, perseverance and preparation of your gear and food.”
SUP record-setter Chris Bertish is another paddler that’s had the Atlantic crossing in his sights for years. We’ve heard that he’ll be attempting a crossing next year but this is, as of yet, unconfirmed.
Jarossay tested his preparation back in August by doing a five-day trial run with his prototype board. He was followed by a support team and covered just over 110 miles while facing upwind conditions.
During the course of this test, Jarossay uncovered various design flaws, but none bigger than his board’s inability to right itself in the case of a capsizing. Considering he will be all alone in the middle of the ocean, this presents a massive problem for Jarossay.
“It is troubling that my biggest concern about the design is still (Jarossay’s) problem today,” De Zwart said. “You cannot have a cabin on a board which is not self-righting.”
Jarossay understands this problem and currently has a new board in development, which he hopes will be ready in time for his late-January departure. Unfortunately, construction is behind schedule, posing a potential threat to Jarossay’s timeline. It’s imperative that Jarossay departs before the window of manageable weather conditions closes in April.
Another concern for De Zwart is Jarossay’s plan to use a hand pump system as opposed to an electric system to make drinkable water. He fears this will waste too much energy that Jarossay should be expelling in other areas.
“It is a lot of work to make drinking water from salt water and you need your energy for paddling, making food, and navigating,” De Zwart said.
Nevertheless, no first expedition is ever without challenges, and fortunately for the progression of our sport, paddlers are not easily discouraged. Jarossay is still planning and preparing to make his dream a reality, just like the navigators and explorers whose stories have inspired this incredible journey.
“For the moment, I will just become the first person trying to cross the Atlantic on a SUP,” Jarossay said. “But I hope to have a beautiful experience, a beautiful dream if the weather and ocean cooperate with me.” —Jack Haworth
Stay tuned to SUP the mag for updates and more media from Nicolas Jarossay’s transatlantic SUP expedition.
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To learn more about Jarossay’s expedition, visit his Transatlantic Facebook page.