Only two people have ever circumnavigated Australia in a sea kayak - Paul Caffyn and Freya Hoffmeister.
Caffyn did it with help of a land-support team about three decades ago. Hoffmeister did it solo and unassisted, finishing in 332 days, 29 less than Caffyn.
The adventure was an amazing feat and the story has been captured in the book "Fearless," by Joe Glickman.
Joe Glickman, author of “Fearless,” will speak at the Paul Smith’s VIC Thursday at 7 p.m.
At 7 p.m. Thursday, Glickman will be at the Paul Smith's VIC to talk about Hoffmeister and her journey as the final speaker in the Armchair Traveler lecture series. The cost is $5 per person.
Glickman, who lives in Brooklyn, is an accomplished writer. He's been published in numerous magazines, including Outside, Canoe and Kayak and National Geographic Adventure. Plus, he's been published in the New York Times, where he had a column about his own adventures. He is also the author of "To the Top," a book about his journey to climb to the highest point in all 50 states.
Glickman decided to write the book about Hoffmeister at her request after he had written some magazine articles about her. At first, he considered declining the offer. Hoffmeister was an interesting subject as a former gymnast, sky diver and Miss Germany beauty pageant contestant. She had done some extraordinary things in a kayak, including paddling around Iceland and the south island of New Zealand, but he was reluctant to write the book because she was difficult to interview and had trouble putting her journey in perspective through words.
In the end, the adventure story was too good to turn away.
"When I really began to think about it and reread her blog, it dawned on me - almost with a big gong - that this was not only one of the top five human-powered sailing trips/kayak trips in the history of humans ... but it is off the charts more audacious than anything any woman had ever done," Glickman said. "The adventure itself is ridiculous and the woman is most vexing. Even when you study her, you are not sure what to make of someone who is physically beautiful and mentally so hard as to feel more macho than most macho men."
In paddling around the continent of Australia in a 21-foot boat, Hoffmeister faced countless obstacles, including many that could have killed her.
Jelly fish, sea snakes, tropical storms and physical exhaustion were some of the threats she faced. She was attacked by sharks many times, one of which was a great white shark that tried to sink her boat.
"The great white punctured the top and lower decks of her boat," Glickman said.
Another impressive feat within the journey itself was Hoffmeister's successful attempt to leave the coastline to paddle between two points of land to avoid paddling the shoreline along the Gulf of Carpenteria. This "shortcut" required Hoffmeister to be at sea in her kayak for eight days. That meant she had to sleep in the kayak as it rolled with waves crashing around her.
Ultimately, this daring shortcut allowed her to cut hundreds of miles off her journey. When Caffyn paddled the Gulf of Carpenteria, he hugged the shoreline and his total mileage for the trip around Australia was 9,430 miles. Hoffmeister finished her trip in 8,800 miles.
"I rode my bike across the U.S. in 44 days and thought I was pretty bad-ass," Glickman said. "This is 332 days of being in a volatile aquatic environment with a lot of stuff that can kill you."