HONOLULU (KHON) — After 91 days and 9 hours out at sea alone, Cyril Derreumaux is checking an item off his long bucket list of adventures, one that he’s been training for the past four years.
On Tuesday, Sept. 20, Derreumaux arrived at Hilo Bay to a gathering crowd and a welcoming escort from the local paddling community. People who have been following his journey since the beginning showed up for the joyful ending, coming from different islands and even flying in from San Francisco.
“Yesterday, the weather was just amazing. Like two, three days before on the water, the weather was 15 to 20 knots of wind. The day before was 10 to 15 knots. And the day of was four to 10, like glass water, beautiful pristine waters. It was like a Godsend,” Derreumaux told Nexstar’s KHON on Wednesday, Sept. 21.
Derreumaux now looks considerably different than when he left the California coast three months ago. He’s about 20 pounds lighter, his beard is longer, but his smile is just as wide as when he started his journey back in 2019 before his ocean kayak “Valentine” — named after his sister — was built. In 2020, his planned departure was aborted since they couldn’t send the boat due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I always think there’s a reason for everything, and maybe, you know, I wasn’t ready and it was not meant to be, and I’ve had experiences like this and I just have to trust the universe that it’s for the best,” said Derreumaux. “And the ocean will always be there for me to have an adventure on it. So it didn’t happen for a reason. And it did happen this year because actually everything was in line.”
Derreumaux still experienced issues this time around but was able to push through. The first few days he had seasickness and lack of sleep, but thanks to his previous experience, he successfully managed to maneuver away from California. The next few weeks, Derreumaux had to beat the strong currents and winds pushing him toward the U.S. and Mexican coasts, and that was just the beginning.
Derreumaux then had to battle great fatigue and attend to several damages: a leak at the back of his boat started flooding a compartment that had to be sealed, there were cabling issues with his battery, and to top things off, he had a close encounter with Tropical Storm Estelle which lost intensity just in time. However, it still forced him to stay sheltered in his cabin for two days while waves were bashing his boat.
“So each day was different. Like there was no continuity in the fact that I just had to deal with the day that day — the future is tomorrow,” Derreumaux said. “The past is done, and each day was different. It depended on the weather. If it’s big wind, then I would focus on, you know, being safe on the water. If another day was super flat, then I would put some music on or podcast and I would relax.”
On days that were super flat, Derreumaux said he didn’t need any music and would take joy in simply looking around. He just followed what his heart wanted at the time.
Then on day 46, things took a turn. The main electrically powered water maker broke, a moment that had Derreumaux decide yet again if he was able to continue the journey. He ended up relying on his backup water maker, manually pumping for one hour each evening and 45 minutes each morning, in order to pump the gallon of water he consumed each day.
Derreumaux leaned on his team on land for support to help resolve one issue after another, as he continued rowing almost 10 hours a day toward Hawaii. He was originally supposed to head for Oahu, but since the expedition took 24 days longer than estimated, Derreumaux had to change course to Hilo due to dwindling food. It would save him days of paddling.
“I don’t think I was ever scared,” said Derreumaux. “There’s always problems that arrive, but then we think about it and then we try to find the right solution for it, and then… once you take the decision, your role with it.”
Out at sea for three months, Derreumaux said the days blended together. During the day, he struggled to navigate the winds and seas, being swamped in the cockpit, wet all the time. There’s restlessness. Then at night, he’s safe in the cabin, but his boat is rolling and rocking, so there’s no sleep.
But after a week of high winds, there was one moment when everything was still.
“I woke up, I came out of the cabin, and the rolling heels of the swell was so soft, like not one ripple,” said Derreumaux. “Just taking the boat softly, and then no sound whatsoever. And the sunrise was coming up beautiful as ever. And those simple things, you know, just add up.”
One bird in the middle of the Pacific Ocean decided to visit him.
“And it was just magical,” said Derreumaux. “I couldn’t help but weep like a kid. I was like, this is so beautiful. So this is definitely a special moment.”
The moment was captured on his GoPro, and he’s excited to share it in a potential documentary film about his solo kayaking trip. He also hopes to write a book about his experience and continue his work as a motivational speaker to inspire others to go on their own adventures.
But before he starts those projects, Derreumaux plans to stay in Hawaii until the end of the month to rest and enjoy what people on land take for granted: hot showers, hearty meals, coffee in the mornings, sleeping in a bed and spending time with family.
“I’m 46 years old,” said Derreumaux. “So, it took a toll on my body. I lost a lot of muscles. My joints and tendons were really strong, and that’s because of years of training, but I do feel like I need to do build up, you know, gain more muscle, get more flexibility, and recovery is important.”
Looking back on his journey, Derreumaux said it ended up being what he expected and more, adding that the key to any adventure is to adapt and take whatever is thrown at you.
“I didn’t think it was gonna be such a spiritual journey to tell you the truth,” he said.
“When I left, everybody said, ‘Why do you want to do this?’ and I didn’t really know,” Derreumaux continued. “I knew I was attracted to this and an adventure, and the ocean gave me the answers, like all these day after day just made me realize why I did it.”
According to his team, Derreumaux completed the first solo kayak trip across the Pacific Ocean unsupported and human-powered. He follows the path of legendary kayaker Ed Gillet who in 1987 paddled solo from Monterey to Maui in 64 days. You can continue to follow Derreumaux’s journey here on Facebook.