Man Rescued During Attempt to SUP Across Atlantic

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.