Former Ukiah man paddling to Hawaii from Bodega Bay
By BRETT WILKISON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Wave Vidmar is set to launch a kayak today from Bodega Bay, which wouldn’t be extraordinary except for his destination: Hawaii, some 3,000 nautical miles away.
The 48-year-old adventurer is seeking to become the second person known to have made the unassisted crossing in a kayak.
If he does, he will have traveled 800 or so miles farther than Ed Gillet, who started from Monterey Bay on his successful 1987 expedition.
Vidmar, a Ukiah High School graduate who now hails from Augusta, Ga., compares the voyage to setting out for Mars. He’s aiming for Oahu aided by satellite navigational equipment, but any of the islands will do after an estimated 45 to 65 days at sea.
“If I land on any one of them I’ll be a happy camper,” he said in a phone interview Saturday, less than 15 hours before his 9 a.m. launch today from Spud Point Marina.
Vidmar isn’t new to exceptional feats, his most notable being a 2004 solo trek to the North Pole. He became a full-time adventurer a year earlier, after years spent in apparel and outdoor gear design.
He has sailed his route once but his longest trip by kayak so far is 180 miles.
He insists he is prepared. His 22-foot-long kayak will have 220 pounds of food, a military-grade water maker to filter seawater so it’s drinkable and communications equipment including two satellite phones, emergency beacons and tracking devices.
Though he expects to encounter tropical storms and swells as high as 25 feet, he says it would be “improbable” that he’d call for a rescue.
In a rare interview in 2003, Gillet talked of his fear of starving, suffering from saltwater sores, the adverse psychological reaction he had to sleeping pills.
Other dangers include sharks, flotsam from the 2011 Japanese tsunami and the perils of drifting hundreds of miles off course.
“My philosophy is I have to be self-sufficient,” he said.
He’s taking along six cameras, including one that can be flown above him on a kite, and will have a laptop computer to file regular updates — and to watch movies on, he said. Science will figure in the voyage, with devices monitoring Vidmar’s physical response to the journey and wave and water conditions along the way.
At night, he’ll slip his six-foot, two-inch frame down into a seven-foot space in the boat to rest. Those confines could present the most chronic challenge, he said.
“I’ve been spending hours each day mentally preparing for being in such a confined space,” he said.
And as to the age old question of why, Vidmar, unmarried, with no children, said the crossing beckoned as a personal challenge.
“Just the opportunity to do this,” he said. “I want people to say, ‘If this guy paddled to Hawaii, what can I do?’”
He paused and then added: “I look just like an average guy, and really I am,” he said. “It’s how I think that separates me.”
To track Vidmar’s progress, visit www.seawardkayaks.com/Wave_Vidmar/