Sticking closer to home this year? Satisfy your wanderlust from afar with these six epic, record-breaking kayaking and canoeing journeys to track in summer 2022. From paddling Canada’s north to circumnavigating the Australian continent, let these far-flung adventures inspire you next time you venture off the beaten path.
1 Symbiosis: To the Arctic Coast
Vancouver-based adventurer Frank Wolf has an impressive resume of long, self-propelled journeys in the Canadian wilderness. Sticking with his tradition of never repeating the same route, Wolf is plotting a challenging northern canoe route for the summer of 2022.
Wolf’s Symbiosis expedition will start at the headwaters of the Tsichu River near the border of the Yukon and Northwest Territories. He’ll descend the Tsichu to the Peel and Mackenzie rivers, before ascending the Great Bear River and tracing the vast, treeless shoreline of Great Bear Lake. Finally, Wolf will follow a traditional route to the Coppermine River and continue downstream to the Arctic coast.
Like always, Wolf’s vision is audacious. But he has no doubt the 800-mile route has been done before. “I don’t think any canoeists can claim a first,” he says. “People have been traveling these waterways for thousands of years. They were just doing it to live back then with no thought of hedonistic adventure—and they were just plain hardier than we are because the times were harder.”
2 Across the Americas
The final leg of a multi-year, human-powered expedition spanning the Americas ends this summer with a canoe trip. Bethany “Fidgit” Hughes and Lauren “Neon” Reed’s seven-year, 20,000-mile expedition, aptly named Her Odyssey, will end in early September, after the duo paddle a 17-foot Venture canoe from Jasper, Alberta, to the Arctic Ocean.
The two women started walking north from the Beagle Channel in 2015 and became the first women to walk the length of South America when they arrived in Turbo, Colombia, three years later. The pair then biked, kayaked and hiked through Central America, Mexico and the United States, publishing stories connecting the land and its people along the way.
3 Freya keeps paddling
Freya Hoffmeister knew her sea kayak expedition around the North American continent would require up to a decade to complete. But she never imagined losing close to a full calendar year due to a global pandemic. Still, Hoffmeister managed to tackle a good chunk of the Alaskan coast last summer and returned to paddle part of Mexico’s Pacific coast in the fall, approaching a total distance of 10,500 miles, nearly 40 percent of the total distance. The tireless German super paddler keeps going in summer 2022 along the northern coast of Alaska and Canada’s Yukon Territory.
4 Northwest Passage: Arctic cowboys
After COVID-19 delayed the departure of three Texans planning to kayak the Northwest Passage in 2020 and again in 2021, the Arctic Cowboys are hoping to take a crack at the 1,925-mile expedition this year. West Hansen, a veteran kayaker who organized a National Geographic-sponsored Amazon River expedition in 2012, will be joined by Jeff Wueste and Rebekah Feaster. They will be attempting the first documented single-season kayak journey through the Arctic Ocean islands of Canada’s Far North.
The team plans to paddle from Pond Inlet on Baffin Island to Tuktoyaktuk, near the Yukon-Alaska border. On this legendary water route they will document the impacts of climate change that could reshape global transportation in an ice-free future. Much of the route has never been paddled in modern times and includes crossings of up to 60 miles long.
5 Another crack at a huge crossing
To date, Ed Gillet remains the only person to complete a sea kayak expedition from California to Hawaii. Gillet made his epic journey in 1987 in a modified Necky tandem kayak—long before the advent of satellite communication. In fact, the adventurer had been given up for dead by the time he stumbled ashore on Maui after 63 days at sea. Multiple attempts to recreate the expedition have failed, except for a 2019 SUP crossing by Antonio De La Rosa.
Last summer, France-born American Cyril Derreumaux set out in a custom-built, live-aboard, solar panel-clad sea kayak, but was rescued by the coast guard six days into the expedition following some equipment failures. Derreumaux, who set a Guinness speed record for rowing the same crossing in 2016, insists 2022 is his year. He predicts a 70-day journey.
On December 19, 2021, Bonnie Hancock set out from the shores of Australia’s Gold Coast to attempt to become just the fifth person and second woman to circumnavigate the continent.
At the time of publication, Hancock was more than five months into her 10,000-mile, seven-month journey by surfski, and on schedule to break Freya Hoffmeister’s speed record set in 2009. Hoffmeister completed the circumnavigation in 10 months and 26 days unsupported. Hancock has the assistance of a support boat, which gives her the safety net to paddle point to point—she was able to save more than 600 miles of distance by paddling across the Great Australian Bight, at one point 300 miles from shore.
A professional Ironwoman and dietician, Hancock is fundraising for Gotcha4Life, an organization supporting mental health. She expects to finish the expedition in July.
Freya Hoffmeister started her North American epic in 2017 and has completed roughly 40 percent of the decade-long journey. | Feature photo: Jaime Sharp