Nicolas Jarossay On The Dramatic End Of His SUP Transatlantic Mission

15 Apr 2016

In an interview translated from French newspaper, Nicolas Jarossay reveals the reasons behind his aborted transatlantic crossing attempt…

The story behind Nicolas Jarossay’s SUP Transatlantic premature end.

nicolas jarossay facebook

First of all Nicolas, how are you feeling?

I am physically fine. I have a few wounds and contusions here and there because I struggled in the water for a while but I am slowly getting back on my feet. After being brought back to shore I slept for 14 hours straight. Mentally it is not easy. I have to cope with the facts that I had to quit so early into the crossing and that I had to be rescued. I was shipwrecked for 6 hours in live or die conditions and this is also affecting me. But I’m alright in the end and that’s what really matters.

nicolas jarossay end his transatlantic sup

Can you tell us what happened?

I had been paddling for a while. Everything was fine, the sailing conditions were normal. I allowed myself a break after 4 hours. As I was eating an orange, a piece of rope tied to the rudder blade suddenly gave in. The rudder blade being loose, the board went sideways and that’s when a wave bigger than the others made the board capsize. I didn’t even have time to try and put another rudder blade. Everything happened so fast.

Since it was only the beginning of the trip, the board was too heavy with food and it was impossible to flip it over, no matter how hard I tried. Then the cold set in as the night fell, I kept trying until I was too exhausted to climb on top of the capsized board, that’s when I activated my distress beacon.

I was around 50 kilometers off the coast. The thing is, in Cape Verde the only few boats available are fishing boats. But I got lucky, the coast guards somehow had a Zodiac. They had been searching for me for a while and just as they were about to stop their search and avoid running out of fuel, I saw them and managed to draw their attention. They rescued me on their boat but on the way back their Zodiac broke down and we ended up in a dyke. It was a really close call. I was suffering from hypothermia then and I had passed out twice on the Zodiac which was taking on water. I ended up in a hospital.

nicolas jarossay rudder blade

What did you think about when you were lost at sea?

The board was upside down and it was very slippery for me to climb or flip over because of the antifouling paint. I was trying to hold on to it despite of the waves. I kept looking around me for a light or a sign of a boat approaching. I had all my distress flares on me, my bottle of water, my beacons. When I saw the Zodiac I activated a flasher with my knife and that’s what allowed me to be spotted.

When I waited for them I was very upset, and tears set in. Within two seconds, 3 years of preparation had been wasted. I didn’t ask myself how it was going to end, I asked myself when it was going to end.

nicolas jarossay stand up paddle fail

Do you know why the rudder blade line broke?

No, it was the line provided with the rudder blade. Next time I’ll just put a stronger rope. Just like I did with the life lines around the board. I used climbing ropes to make them stronger. I put trust in my material but it failed me. I will never know why  because the board is now lost.

You weren’t able to bring the board back to shore?

The coast guards tried to tow the board but halfway through they noticed they didn’t have enough gas to make it. The sea was bad and they got scared. I went to see them the next day and they told me that they do not go out in the sea that often.

nicolas jarossay sup stand up paddle in the sea

What options were available to right your boat?

We actually didn’t set up a way to right the board. It was a prototype and we didn’t have enough money nor time to make it perfect. You are always running risks with these kinds of adventures. The first man who flew a plane crashed 1 meter after take off…

Will you try the crossing again?

Well, it won’t be on this board for sure. Today I can say that if someone offers to help me build a new board. I’m in. In regards to the shipwreck, I can see that I didn’t panic in live or die conditions. I think I am prepared physically and I have the right mindset. I could have come back traumatized but I am not. I will admit that I’m still crying because there are a lot of mixed feelings. First of all for hours I thought that it was over, that no one w0uld find me. Also during the 3 years of preparation, I put a lot of things aside that I want to start again. Family life, work on the house, you know… everyday things.

nicolas jarossay shaper

Your board was built by a shaper, would you like to work with a larger organization next time?

I would like to work with a naval architect next time. With their specialized computer system they can really work precisely and make a perfect board. If we find a manufacturer to back it up, it would mean that a lot of specialists could work together on this project.

About the Author

Mathieu Astier

Mathieu is the hyper-active founder of TotalSUP and a multilingual online marketing veteran with more than 20 years of experience working for top international internet companies. His love-at-first-sight for Stand Up Paddling in 2013 led him to build one of the leading online media dedicated to SUP in English and French and to turn his family lifestyle towards the ocean.

To follow Mathieu: