Man Rescued During Attempt to SUP Across Atlantic

Oceans
Photo: @Rakonczay Expedíciók

After just six days, Gabor Rakonczay has had to abort his attempt to paddleboard across the Atlantic and was rescued by helicopter. The Hungarian man started on January 10 from Gran Canaria, off the coast of northwest Africa, and planned to SUP the 5,200km to Antigua.

This was Rakonczay’s second attempt. He also tried last January but had to turn back after three days because water had penetrated the hull. This time, the situation was so dire that turning back wasn’t an option.

The journey began well, with decent weather and good wind direction. His speed was on track with his rough plan. But in designing his paddleboard to be as close to an ordinary, off-the-shelf model as possible, he had decided not to create a shelter on board.

Photo: @Rakonczay Expedíciók

He was soaking wet almost immediately from waves. This was manageable during the day but rapidly became impossible at night. He intended to sleep lying tied to the deck, in the open, covered with just a waterproof sheet. He knew that this would be his biggest challenge but he severely underestimated how hard it would be.

On the first night, he didn’t sleep at all; on the second, he managed a 40-minute catnap. In the days that followed, he barely slept a few hours. Whenever he lay down, waves continued to crash into and over the board. Continually soaked, he tried to keep his eyes shut but had to clutch the vessel to hang on.

After a few days, he started to hallucinate. By the fourth night, the chilly, 16˚C water began to feel warm to him. Hypothermic as well as half-mad from lack of sleep, he had to resist the urge to remove his life jacket and leap into the ocean. This is when he realized something was very wrong. “I felt that I had a real problem, mainly in my head,” said Rakonczay. “This was not something I could keep doing.”

On the fifth day, he inflated his emergency lifeboat for shelter. No boat was available to pick him up so he had to call in a helicopter and abandon the craft he spent so much time building.

“I pushed the boundaries,” he admits. “I don’t think I’m going to do a thing involving such a risk factor again. This is the end of it.” Rather than despair over what happened, he is just glad that he survived.

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About the Author

Rebecca McPhee

Rebecca is a freelance writer and science teacher based in the UK.

She is a keen traveler and has been lucky enough to backpack her way around Africa, South America, and Asia. With a background in marine biology, she is interested in everything to do with the oceans and aims to dive and open-water swim in as many seas as possible.

Her areas of expertise include open water sports, marine wildlife, adventure travel, and Harry Potter trivia.

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Craig
Craig
1 month ago

He sounds deranged

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Marlon
Marlon
1 month ago
Reply to  Craig

NO because Deranged people are incapable of building and designing their own high tech ships!

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OldHikerDude
OldHikerDude
1 month ago

I’m surprised that nobody tried really hard to talk him out of it…….kinda says sumthin right there.

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Terri
Terri
1 month ago

In all seriousness, this expedition makes me feel uncomfortable – He sounds as though he may be unwell. Not sure about encouraging this…

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FelixJaeger
FelixJaeger
1 month ago

He managed to cross the Atlantic Ocean two times before with canoe. Those had cabins. This SUP should have been a more pure form of crossing, and I am really happy that he managed to read the signs of sleep deprivation and called the rescue heli.
He is an university degree in engineering and he designed his own boats.

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