Sunday, December 8th, 2019

Family tackle 18 month kayak odyssey

Published on April 15, 2016 by   ·   No Comments

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When Lars Simonsen lost his job and his house, he didn’t dwell on his misfortune but took advantage of the gift of free time.  He picked himself up, sold his furniture and used the money to fund a 7,000km journey by kayak from Copenhagen to Istanbul for himself, his wife Suzi… and his two small children.

Lars and Suzi are no strangers to adventure.  As managers of a campsite they had five months off every year and capitalised on that time to travel, spending months in South East Asia, backpacking in South America and cycling for two months through Australia.  Having children hasn’t slowed them down.  In 2006 they had their son Tiuri and by the time he was ten months old they were campervanning around the west coast of the US.  In 2008 their daughter Liva arrived and a month later they drove their second-hand Mitsubishi Space Star down through Europe.  Kayaking 7,000km is therefore a little less daunting to the Simonsens than to your average family with small kids, those who air punch when they’re at school on time with shoes on the right feet.

The first step on their amazing journey was finding a suitable vessel so they acquired a pai

r of Hobie Mirage Tandem Island kayaks.  These two-seater kayaks are kayaks in name only, yes you can paddle them if you like but there’s so much more than meets the eye.  You start paddling but if conditions become choppier, or your arms need a bit of a rest, then extend the outriggers, fold away your paddles and replace them with the pedals, for the integrated dual MirageDrives are pedal powered.  If that’s not choice enough, when the wind is with you, you can hoist the 8.4m² main sail and take advantage of all that free wind energy.  This fabulous little vessel is 5.64m long with a total beam (including outriggers) of 3.05 metres.  The perfect craft for an adventurous family to set out on their journey of a lifetime.

As far as preparation went, well, they had buckets of enthusiasm, two kayaks and a whole lot of time on their hands but they didn’t do much physical training.  In fact before they set off their longest trip on a kayak had only been three days.  However that didn’t stop the Simonsens and on the 3 May 2014 they set off from Copenhagen on their 7,000km pedal/paddle.

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Their journey took them through nine countries.  Obviously Denmark was country number one, they then travelled down the centre of Europe through Holland, Germany, Belgium and France before they arrived at the Mediterranean.  There they took a sharp left along the coast of France with a pitstop in Monaco.  Although they only spent one night in Monaco, they were treated like royalty and stayed in a luxury hotel, courtesy of the Monaco Yacht Club.  After Monaco came the 2,086km journey down the eastern coast of Italy, which took them from November to June and where on occasion they battled with high winds and four-metre waves.

However it wasn’t all tough going.  One of the most memorable experiences occurred when the family was joined by a whale swimming beneath and by the side of the kayaks.  “The kids couldn’t believe their eyes”, remembers Lars.  “It was a magical experience.”

The final leg was the most difficult with two open water crossings, the first across the Ionian Sea to Greece and a second sea crossing in Greece.

“It has also been a tough trip, from time to time,” says Lars.  That seems like an understatement when he explains that one of the tough times was when a kayak sprung a leak and began to sink 20km from land in two-metre waves.

The Greek sea crossing was their longest stretch at 27 hours, 60km of which were in dead calm so there was no chance of using the sails.  Lars says, “In the early morning hours, I was pulling Suzi fast asleep for about an hour.  I nodded off many times, and I woke up because I was still moving my legs!

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The whole journey took them 539 days, a few months longer than anticipated because Lars hurt his back en route and they had to hole up on land for a month for it to recover.  Once they arrived at their destination, how did they get back?  Well after a zero-carbon 7,000km journey by boat, what better way to round it off than with a 4,500km journey back north in an electric car.

During their journey they were raising money for Nuru International a charity, which aims to fight poverty in Africa.

So they made it, what next?  You would think they’d like to spend a bit of time lounging around and telling tall tales, but this family have been bitten by the travel bug and in June they are setting off on their next adventure taking their trusty Hobie kayaks and paddling/pedalling 3,000+ kilometres along the Yukon river from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada, to Emmonak on the Bering Sea, Alaska, USA.

Follow the family’s journeys on their website: https://lifeisgoodfollowus.com/

You can also buy the book of their epic journey from Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Life-Good-FOLLOW-US-Copenhagen-ebook/dp/B01DCRG7SQ

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