We met John as he was putting together final preparations before beginning the journey. It’s not his first long kayaking expedition, back in 2004 he completed the challenging route from Skagway, Alaska down to Seattle. For the first seven days of his Iceland odyssey he’ll have Magnus Sigurjonsson for company. Magnus is a highly experienced kayaking guide and instructor and is the 2009 Icelandic rolling champion. After that, for the remainder of the 1,100 mile journey, John will be very much on his own.
John is not your regular 9 to 5 guy. Ex-military, he now mostly devotes his time to the work at AFL, whose animal shelter was tragically destroyed by fire in March. Having built this together with his wife, Ayeshah, it was a devastating blow but one which they are determined to bounce back fully from.
Throughout the journey John will be essentially self-sufficient. His kayak is designed specifically to undertake sea-journeys of this length and is cleverly designed to allow him to stow an incredible amount of equipment.
“I can carry enough with me to be totally independent for anything up to two weeks”, he says. “The provision of drinking water is typically the limiting issue. I can carry up to twelve gallons of water onboard, but in Iceland this won’t be necessary”.
It is impossible for John to set off on the journey with a firm schedule in mind. Ideally he’d like to travel twenty-five to thirty miles a day, but his success in achieving this is totally dependent on the weather and sea conditions.
Instead he will push his body to paddle for as long as he possibly can during the day. “If the conditions are good then I’ll feel I have to keep going as far as I can”, he explained, “if for no other reason than I never know what the next day will be like. Conditions can change very rapidly around Iceland. It’s right in the middle of the Gulf Stream, and the winds just wrap around the island”.
Seasonally-wise, it’s a good time to go. “I’ll get super-long days out on the water”, he says. Darkness falls, but only for a handful of hours a night. After the first two weeks John predicts his fitness level will have reached the point where he can paddle for over ten hours a day.
He’s fit now, but not what he calls ‘kayak-fit’. This is something that will only come after weeks on the water.
It’s a very energy-intensive exercise to paddle a kayak. More than simply the arms, correct and full control of a kayak requires full body input. Every muscle is utilized - everything from the waist down is used to balance the kayak, and to alter the boat’s direction.
He enjoys the solitude of such an expedition. One assumes that for John, as with explorers of old, this is very much part of the attraction.
On this journey he’ll have an MP3 player for company - but rather than music his choice is to listen to audio-books. “One of the biggest challenges when you’ve been on the water for five hours and you know you’ve still got possibly another five ahead of you is motivation. On the Alaska trip I sang to myself and talked to myself. This time I’m going to enjoy the peace and enjoy listening to some great stories”.
Possibly the greatest story of all will be the one John returns home with. It’s impossible to travel such a distance around such a great land without returning home having been affected in some way by it.
It’ll be quite a journey.
You can follow John’s journey at www.johnpeaveler.com
First Published in Men's Passion Issue #23 June-July-August 2010