Atlantic Kayaker Wins 2015 People’s Choice Adventurer of the Year

Aleksander Doba AOY Winner

Atlantic Kayaker Wins 2015 People’s Choice Adventurer of the Year

Aleksander Doba AOY Winner

Updated 2-17-2015

“If 67 years young can do it, you can do it, too.” — Aleksander Doba, who made the longest open-water solo kayak crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in history.

The votes have been counted—a record-setting 521,000 of them. Our People’s Choice Adventurer of the Year  award goes to Atlantic kayaker Aleksander Doba.

“It was the vote at National Geographic that showed how many known and unknown friends I have all over the world who are fascinated with a 67-years-young adventurer in a kayak on the great ocean. It makes me feel humbled and very honored,” said Doba on winning this award. “I have two sons and two granddaughters. I hope they will learn not to be afraid to dream, turn dreams into plans, and bring plans to reality. Then there is the satisfaction of great achievements.” Read about his Atlantic expedition.

“Thank you Jim Butterfield and the Bermuda Sloop Foundation for helping in my return on board the sloop Spirit of Bermuda, to my original route after I was forced to land in Bermuda. I also thank the people of Bermuda for their warmth and cordiality,” says Doba, who was waylaid in Bermuda to repair mechanical failures during his expedition. “I extend special thanks to Piotr Chmielinski for his great, comprehensive engagement and assistance.”

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President of Poland Bronislaw Komorowski congratulates adventurer Aleksander Doba with the Polonia Restituta Knight Cross award; Photograph courtesy Piotr Molecki/KPRP

And the awards continue to come in. On Monday, February 16, Doba received the Polonia Restituta Knight Cross award from the Poland’s president, Bronislaw Komorowski.

“Thank you for a remarkable feat that made Poland famous all over the world,” President Komorowski said.

But Doba’s not hanging up his paddle yet. In spring 2016, at 70 years old, Doba plans to attempt crossing the Atlantic Ocean solo by kayak again, this time starting from New York and finishing in Europe.

We asked Doba, now 68, for some life lessons learned from the hull of a kayak set on a course for big dreams.

On living adventurously: “I have always been curious as an active tourist. Exploring the world is very fascinating. When you go on a long trip (regardless of the type) it is impossible to predict everything. This unpredictability is a magnet for me, while to some people it is discouraging. [A] life full of fun and adventure is a dream [for] many people. I try to not only dream but also to plan and carry out the expedition. Adventures will meet us on the way …. not in a chair in front of the TV.”

On courage: “When I have a goal, I try to strive hard for it and to overcome the emerging problems instead of looking for excuses why I did not pursue it.”

On friendship: “A friend in need is a friend indeed: This old proverb really works on expeditions.”

On wonder: “For me, fascinating are the moments of silence before a tropical storm. The water is calm, there is a light breeze and powerful storm clouds … for several kilometers, extending from horizon to horizon. I can sense the energy pulsing from breaking waves and the inevitability of a violent storm, which in the moment will embrace me. This beauty of mighty nature is fascinating.”

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Aleksander Doba in his kayak, OLO; Photograph by Nicola Muirhead

On solitude: “[During] intense everyday life we don’t have time for self-reflection. During several months of solitary expedition I have time to contemplate matters [that] normally I would not spend time on. It’s fascinating how deeply a man can look into himself when not distracted by daily worries.”

On regret: “Sometimes I regret that I did not do something, that I left it for later—for the ‘holy never.’ It doesn’t happen often though.”

On fitness: “I do not go to the gym to exercise. Daily physical activity and various expeditions allow me to maintain good physical and mental condition—I am a tourist, not an athlete.”

On money: “As yet, I haven’t made money on any of my expeditions. My wife always is teasing me that in everyday life I am too frugal to make sure that I can collect funds for the next trip.”

On dreaming big: “Do not be afraid to have dreams. Turn your dreams into plans—ambitious plans—and then pursue those plans. It is important to plan carefully and systematically prepare for the implementation of the ambitious plans. Be consistent in execution of your plans without letting yourself be distracted in the process. My prescription is simple and effective. However, it is not easy for the dreamer to be methodical!”

On staying young at heart: “We are aging spiritually and physically. I believe that living an active life, being open to people and opportunities, and eating sensibly, as well as skipping addictions—especially cigarettes—is very important. When exploring the world, start with the surrounding area. Then go farther and farther. Avoid toxic people. Be yourself, natural and joyful. Let’s enjoy every moment of life, because there is nothing better.”

Translation by Piotr Chmielinski