Defying virus, ocean rower plans next adventure

RIGA (AFP) – After spending 140 days rowing across the ocean without seeing another human being, Latvian adventurer Karlis Bardelis has some valuable tips for those learning to cope with coronavirus lockdowns.

Bardelis started his nearly two-year journey in Peru in July 2018, reaching French Polynesia after nearly five months and finishing in Malaysia in June of this year.

Along the way, he was rammed by sharks off Papua New Guinea, had to use a battery to replace a lost anchor and faced some near misses with other boats.

His longest stretch on the open sea without seeing anyone lasted nearly five months.

“If we can’t change the circumstances, we can change our attitudes towards them,” he told AFP in his native Latvia, having spent two weeks in mandatory quarantine upon return from Malaysia.

Latvian adventurer Karlis Bardelis paddles in a rented kayak at the yacht club in Riga, Latvia. PHOTO: AFP

“A lot of people asked me if I didn’t lose my mind or become insane,” said the 35-year-old, adding, “No, I just enjoy it, because that’s what I choose to do.”

Bardelis documented his epic 26,000-kilometre journey on his Bored of Borders Facebook page.

He rowed up to 13 hours a day to make his way from South America to Asia with no engine and no sails on his seven-metre plywood boat, plastered with sponsor decals. Reaching two metres at its widest point, the row boat is equipped only with a small cabin for sleeping and storing supplies and equipment. His trip from Peru to Malaysia was documented on the website oceanrowing.com and is believed to be the first of its kind.

“I’m 200 per cent certain that I made the first solo rowboat trip from South America to Southeast Asia,” Bardelis said.

Stops along the way connected the economics and environmental sciences graduate with the people of Tuvalu, French Polynesia, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, among others.