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67-year-old Polish kayaker Aleksander "Olek" Doba exists his kayak at the end of his 167-day transatlantic expedition; Photograph courtesy Nicola Muirhead /

67-Year-Old Kayaker Finishes Transatlantic Crossing

The community of New Smyrna Beach, Florida welcomed Aleksander “Olek” Doba with a salute of gun shots, when he appeared on the horizon in his yellow kayak, OLO.  He has now crossed the Atlantic twice, this time on the route between the farthest points situated on the shores of Europe and the United States. The salute signaled the end of his extraordinary expedition, resulting in a historical first achievement.

Accompanied by 27 kayakers, who formed the escort of honor, Doba reached the harbor where a crowd awaited him with red and white flags and banners saying, Olek you’re my hero, Doba welcome to New Smyrna Beach. It became an explosion of joy, culminating in the first step of the kayaker on land. For Doba it was a special moment, and even symbolic.  With solid ground underfoot, he kissed the dry land and relaxed in the grass seeming relieved, satisfied, and happy. The journey, with all of its many dramatic events, had been successfully accomplished.

The New Smyrna Beach community was very supportive of Doba’s expedition. The closer to the coast of Florida he came, the greater became the interest and expectation, together with the satisfaction that “Aleksander the Great,” as many called him, was to finish his ocean journey here.  Doba already had the opportunity to feel the excitement and spontaneous joy of this on his way from Cape Canaveral to New Smyrna Beach. Along the shore, he was greeted by people who were waiting to wave at him and give encouraging words.

Mayor Adam Barringer of New Smyrna Beach announced that April 19 has been established as “Welcome Aleksander “Olek” Doba Day.” Reading the proclamation of specific holidays, Barringer underscored the immense determination, perseverance, and courage of a man who is an example of the power of the human spirit. “The City of New Smyrna Beach is honored to be selected as Olek’s final destination and welcomes this courageous voyager to our city at the finish of such a long and arduous journey,” the mayor said. “I urge all citizens to celebrate and acknowledge Mr. Doab’s extraordinary accomplishment and extend the warmest of New Smyrna Beach welcomes to this outstanding adventurer.”

The commander of the New Smyrna Beach Yacht Club, Dan Kolassa, said in his speech that the elders of the club, in recognition of Doba’s achievements, have made him an honorary member of their group. Just how important this award is, and how much you have to work for it, may be proved by the fact that “I myself, even though I have a lot of experience on the ocean, still do not belong to this group”, the commander said jovially!

After the official welcome, a very long queue of people equipped with cameras lined up, because each one wanted to have a record of meeting Doba. Each handshake or hug was accompanied by words of appreciation, admiration, and congratulations for the kayaker. For many people, Doba has become an inspiration, an example of perseverance in the pursuit of a purpose, as well as proof that if you really want something, and you put in the effort, you can achieve your goal. “Olek , if someone says that he is tougher than you, then we will put him in a kayak and let it go to Europe. Let’s see if he can handle it,” said one of the congratulatory messages.

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An escort of kayakers joins Doba as he finishes his transatlantic crossing in New Smyrna Beach, Florida; Photograph courtesy Nicola Muirhead (@nicolaanne_photo)

This warm welcome made Doba immediately forget about the fatigue and lack of sleep. He was happy to devote as much attention as he could to each person who greeted him.  Giving autographs and posing for pictures took nearly two hours. “I am very happy that I was able to paddle to the North American continent, especially after nearly a month after the failure of the rudder. In the minds of different people, it added the emotional aspect of the journey”, Doba said. ” I am very happy to see such crowds on the shore, people greeting me the day before Easter, and kayakers being an honorary escort for me. It’s an amazing feeling. The welcome by the city authorities, navy and residents is far beyond my imagination. It has rewarded me for all the hardships and doubts.”

The joy of attaining the objective pursued is great and the expedition, lasting 167 days (167 days of paddling), was full of dramatic events. First, a series of storms and strong winds that pushed him from his route and finally it caused serious damage to the rudder and forced him to seek refuge in Bermuda for repair. During the loading of the kayak onto the sloop the Spirit of Bermuda, on which Olek returned to his route, the wings were badly damaged and had to be removed. The wings were an important element of the structure to ensure its ability to remain upright . When the wingless kayak gained momentum and began to approach Florida faster than originally expected, Olek fell into the trap of the Gulf Stream. After passing the area of strong current, he began to be pushed west by other strong winds blowing from the east. As a result, it was necessary to change the route and take direction to Cape Canaveral instead of straight towards New Smyrna Beach.

Since the beginning of January, the Atlantic has battled Olek, serving him one obstacle after another. However his strength of will, strength of spirit, and an overwhelming belief in achieving the goal, led him to a happy ending. Doba says: “I think I have a wonderful guardian angel who pulls me in the direction needed. Thank you guardian angel, that swam where I was going.”

In Poland, Doba will experience another welcome. All who in the past few months, cheered him, cheered on his way and supported him wait for him impatiently.  Most of all his family: wife Gabriela, their sons and their families. As  Gabriela relates: “One day, our five-year old granddaughter Olga asked her mother why her grandfather kayaked. Kasia, our daughter-in-law, replied that her grandfather was fulfilling his dreams. Olga replied, Mom, I have a dream that my grandfather returns home and does not leave for another expedition any more.” Is this a dream that her grandfather can realize–or is it too much to ask of this intrepid adventurer?