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Polish grandpa heads from New York to Portugal... in a kayak

Polish grandpa heads from New York to Portugal... in a kayak Polish grandpa heads from New York to Portugal... in a kayak

A Polish grandfather left New York Sunday on his third solo trans-Atlantic crossing in a kayak, aiming to arrive in Portugal in time to celebrate his 70th birthday on firm ground in September.

Aleksander Doba paddled off from the tip of Manhattan after doing interviews and posing for selfies with a crowd of some 100 onlookers.

A star at home, Doba gained global attention when he was named a National Geographic adventurer of the year in 2015.

At that point, he already had two solo Atlantic kayak crossings under his belt.

The first, between October 2010 and February 2011, took him across one of the narrowest points of the ocean from the Senegalese capital Dakar to the Brazilian city of Acarau.

"During the expedition bandits attacked me twice and I was robbed of almost everything," he said on his website.

The second saw him set off from Lisbon in October 2013 and arrive in Florida in April the following year, navigating ocean swells and tempestuous weather.

On Sunday, he embarked on what he has called his "hardest" journey yet, a 3,700-mile (6,000-kilometer) crossing through storm zones in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic.

"I know that this will be the toughest of the three," he said Sunday through a translator.

"The water is cold. There are a lot more currents and storms predicted -- this will be interesting.

"I believe now I'm only dealing with nature. I know how to deal with nature and what to expect."

Regardless of the obstacles, Doba -- also an avid rock-climber, parachutist, glider pilot, sailor and yacht skipper -- is determined to make it to the Portuguese capital in time to celebrate his 70th birthday on September 9.

"I planned, from the beginning, to make a circle," Doba said, recalling how he planned his adventure from Europe or Africa to South America, from South America to the United States and from there to Europe. "My dream is to finish this."

Doba's 21-foot (over six metre) white and yellow kayak, which he calls "Olo," was in large part designed by him.

- Age is just a number -

He will be paddling between eight and 12 hours each day -- not exactly anyone's notion of grandpa napping in a rocking chair.

And Doba won't let his age get in the way of his dream.

"I feel good. I don't want to think about being old," said the grandfather who sports a long white beard. "I feel young and I don't want to pretend that I'm old."

And Doba was dismissive about risks of the journey.

"When people ask me about the dangers of this, I will ask them: Where did you get up from? The bed? Did you know that 95 percent of people will die in bed? So why do you go to bed?"

"What happens after? Let's see," he said smiling.

He is in the kayak "mostly for myself but really, if that gives happiness and encouragement to others, why not?"

Doba's extreme hobbies haven't always made things easy for his family, acknowledges his supportive wife Gabriela through a translator.

"I never agreed, but at a certain point, there was no return. So I was his best supporter for the first two expeditions," she said.

"For a person of this type, this energy, this determination, you cannot stop somebody for doing what he really wants to do."

He has already logged 96,000 kilometres by kayak and Doba says he is eager to see "my counter pass the 100,000-kilometre threshold" this year.

By Thomas URBAIN


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