Victoria kayaker seeks record for fastest circumnavigation of Vancouver Island

A Victoria man is paddling against some of the roughest seas of the West Coast as he attempts to break the world record for fastest circumnavigation of Vancouver Island by sea kayak.

Jerome Truran, 57, embarked on the ambitious 1,150-kilometre journey from Port Hardy, near the northernmost tip of the island at about 4 p.m. Wednesday.

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The kayaker, who is paddling unassisted, must cover about 75 kilometres per day to reach his goal.

Truran wants to beat the record of 15 days, 11 hours and 47 minutes set in June 2011 by Comox adventurer Colin Angus, who circumnavigated the island in a sliding-seat row boat that he designed and built.

Angus, who knows Truran, said he doesn’t mind that his friend wants to steal the title he has held for two years.

“It’s all in the spirit of fun and challenging ourselves,” Angus said with a laugh. “He’s an incredible paddler.”

According to his GPS tracker, Truran successfully navigated the coast of Brooks Peninsula on Saturday, a notoriously challenging section dubbed the “Cape of Storms” in the 18th century by British explorer Capt. James Cook for its unforgiving weather.

“You get weather systems that seem to congregate around there and create rough conditions,” said Angus, adding that the region’s sheer cliffs and confused seas also make it particularly treacherous.

Although he has a cellphone, Truran was outside of the coverage area and could not be reached for comment during the weekend.

But the kayaker blogged about his preparations for the trip, writing that he has dreamed about circumnavigating Vancouver Island by sea kayak for many years.

“At 57, I’m not getting any younger and kinda curious to see if this old horse still has the power,” he wrote.

Originally from South Africa, Truran is no stranger to paddling dangerous waters, according to friends. In his youth, he raced rivers infested with crocodiles and hippos. When South Africa was barred from international competition, Truran, who has a British passport, competed with the British team in races around the world.

In 1985, at age 29, Truran was the only kayaker in a 14-person crew to escape injury-free when they navigated the menacing Black Canyon, a dangerous 25 kilometre-stretch of whitewater on the Apurimac River in southern Peru. The crew’s experience was documented in a 1989 bestselling book Running the Amazon.

Longtime friend Rob Hansen of Campbell River described Truran as a “legend in the kayaking world.” Hansen, a fellow South African and kayaker, met Truran in 1988 when the two tackled Africa’s Zambezi River.

“He’s obviously got a knack for pulling off marathon-type paddles,” said Hansen.

Truran could face many hurdles as he continues his journey, from muscle fatigue to sleep deprivation.

With the marathon distances he is paddling each day, Truran needs to consume about 5,000 calories a day, Hansen said. His boat is packed with freeze-dried food, protein powder, cans of tuna and about 14 litres of drinking water.

Bob Putnam, co-owner of Vancouver’s Deep Cove Canoe and Kayak Centre, sponsored Truran by donating a more stable kayak than the one he previously owned. Putnam said he has no doubts the accomplished kayaker will beat the record.

‘He’s essentially unsinkable,” said Putnam. “You could probably hit Jerome with a baseball bat and he would go into the water and pop back up.”

To follow Truran and track him on the rest of his trip, visit his blog http://aroundvanisle.blogspot.ca

tfletcher@theprovince.com

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