Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

When Aleksander Doba (70) kayaked into the port in Le Conquet, France, on Sept. 3, 2017, he had just completed his third — and by far most dangerous — solo trans-Atlantic kayak trip. He was a few days shy of his 71st birthday…He’d been at sea 110 days, alone, having last touched land that May at New Jersey’s Barnegat Bay. The trip could have easily ended five days earlier, when Doba was just a few hundred feet off the British coast. But he had promised himself, when he left New Jersey, that he would kayak not just to Europe but to the Continent proper. So he stayed on the water nearly another week, in the one-meter-wide boat where he’d endured towering waves, in the coffinlike cabin where he spent almost four months not sleeping more than three hours at a stretch, where he severely tried his loved ones’ patience in order to be lonely, naked and afraid. Then he paddled to the French shore…

 “The more you don’t believe in Polish people, the more determined we are. To prove themselves, Polish people will endure everything. If you aren’t willing to suffer, you can do nothing. You can sit and die. This is the only one thing you can do.”

Doba’s physicality is sui generis. His body appears to be assembled from parts belonging to people of vastly different ages. His skin looks 71. His chest looks 50. His hands and forearms look 30, straight off a Montana roper. His hair and beard appear to be taken from a Michelangelo painting of God.

Doba has a deep, almost performance-art-like sense of this. You can be made small by life or rage against it. “Nie chce byc malym szarym czlowiekiem,” he told me. “I do not want to be a little gray man.” This is a common expression in Poland — and a good motto for us all.

~ Elizabeth Weil, excerpts from Why He Kayaked Across the Atlantic at 70 (For the Third Time) (NY Times, March 22, 2018)


Thank you Rachel

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