Alone in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Antonio de la Rosa is headed for Hawaii. But he’s not using the conventional method of taking a plane – the Spanish endurance king is atop a 24-foot paddleboard. He’s plowing through the waves for nearly 3,000 miles, powering the Ocean Defender with his arms alone. But each day of his journey, he sees something that astonishes him.
De la Rosa paddled to Oahu, Hawaii, from San Francisco, California, in 2019, taking 76 days to make the trip. His paddleboard was designed for the purpose, and because he had no support vessel, he carried all his supplies along with him. He had everything from a system to take the salt out of seawater to make it potable to solar panels to power his communications equipment.
All this came to in excess of 1,500 pounds, a decent amount to move using only de la Rosa’s own strength. Indeed, he told CNN in August 2019, “My arms and my legs are my motor.” At best, he’d make 50 miles a day, but when the current was against him, he’d only do ten. The effort caused him to lose roughly 25 pounds, even though he was able to lure a few fish as extra supplies.
The first person ever to make the trip between California and Hawaii by paddleboard, de la Rosa did it to raise awareness of ocean pollution. On the side of his board, a sign urged, “SAVE the OCEAN. NO plastics, NO nets, RECYCLE.” And indeed, his own message turned out to be somewhat prescient. That’s because one thing was an ever-present on his days aboard.
This was plastic, possibly part of what’s known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a 618,000-square mile area of waste plastic. De la Rosa commented on Facebook, “I keep seeing every day some plastic packaging and remains of fishing nets. Although it is not much, there is no day that I do not locate some plastic floating. We need to change things as soon as possible [and] try not to return a single non-organic waste to the ocean.”