Erden Eruc to Row From California to Hong Kong

Oceans Rowing/canoeing
Eruc in his trusty plywood boat. Photo: Erden Eruc

When the veteran rower reaches Hong Kong, he will cycle to Tibet, then climb Everest.

Erden Eruc has spent over 30 months of his life rowing the world’s oceans. Despite already possessing a sack-full of Guinness world records, at 59, he is far from finished. In May, he will set out from California on another mammoth journey. This time, he will row mainland to mainland across the Pacific, aiming to reach Hong Kong almost a year later, in March 2022.

This is his second row across the Pacific, but his first from mainland to mainland. However, this distinction is not his primary driver. The row is part of his human-powered six summits project, during which he will climb the highest peak on each continent (excluding Antarctica).

Eruc has already done three of the peaks. He still has to climb Elbrus and Aconcagua, while this row will form the initial stage of his journey to Everest.

Another aspect of this row sets it apart from Eruc’s many previous expeditions. Legendary British rower Peter Bird holds the record for most career days ocean rowing, with 937. Bird was tragically lost at sea trying to row from Russia to the U.S. in 1996 and Eruc — who already has 934 days at sea — is poised to topple his 25-year-old record. Eruc proudly sports Bird’s logo on his rowboat.

Eruc will take beacons to mark any ghost nets (fishing nets lost at sea) he encounters during his row. Photo: Erden Eruc

Once Eruc reaches Waikiki, he will stall his journey until late September. The extended break is necessary to avoid the worst of the monsoon storms. “Between Hawaii and Guam, there could be tropical storms,” he explained while working on his boat last week. “I’ll have to monitor these to see if any turn north.”

He’ll have access to a meteorologist and can drop a sea anchor during a storm. But for those that come straight at him, he has to simply batten down the hatches and ride out the wind and waves in his plywood boat.

Aside from typhoons, Hong Kong itself presents a bureaucratic concern. Tricky currents and a northeasterly wind could easily blow Eruc and his “low horsepower vessel” onto the Chinese mainland. This could cause logistical/diplomatic problems. Landing on the mainland requires a Chinese visa, currently impossible to obtain since the Chinese visa department in the U.S. has closed indefinitely because of COVID.

He hopes that during the long weather break in Waikiki, the Chinese visa office will reopen. He will also get his COVID vaccine injections on the island. Although he will have self-isolated for months at sea, a vaccine certificate may be required for a Chinese visa.

If everything goes to plan and Eruc sticks his landing in Hong Kong next spring, this won’t mark the end of his expedition. Next, he’ll cycle to Tibet, where he plans to climb Everest.

You can follow Eruc on his website. ExplorersWeb will also update his progress.

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About the Author

Martin Walsh

Martin Walsh

Martin Walsh is a freelance writer and wildlife photographer based in Da Lat, Vietnam.

A history graduate from the University of Nottingham, Martin's career arc is something of a smörgåsbord. A largely unsuccessful basketball coach in Zimbabwe and the Indian Himalaya, a reluctant business lobbyist in London, and an interior design project manager in Saigon.

He has been fortunate enough to see some of the world. Highlights include tracking tigers on foot in Nepal, white-water rafting the Nile, bumbling his way from London to Istanbul on a bicycle, feeding wild hyenas with his face in Ethiopia, and accidentally interviewing Hezbollah in Lebanon.

His areas of expertise include adventure travel, hiking, wildlife, and half-forgotten early 2000s indie-rock bands.

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