Aleksander Doba, a Polish adventurer who kayaked alone across the Atlantic at the age of 70 while subsisting on his wife’s fortifying plum jam — after having twice paddled solo across the Atlantic when he was in his 60s — died on Feb. 22 on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa. He was 74.
His son Czeslaw said the cause was asphyxia resulting from high-altitude pulmonary edema.
Mr. Doba’s three daring voyages earned him Guinness World Records titles, and in 2017 he became the oldest person to kayak across the Atlantic. His feats made him a national hero in Poland.
A former chemical plant engineer who lived in a little river town, Mr. Doba had long been the most accomplished kayaker in his country. His desire to conquer the ocean grew from an innocent idea that gradually consumed him: He had kayaked everything else, so why not the Atlantic Ocean?
As a young man in Communist Poland, he had joined a local kayaking club, and he took to the sport avidly. In 1989, he surpassed the record for the most days paddled by a Polish man in a single year. He later spent 100 days paddling the circumference of the Baltic Sea. He also kayaked the coast of Norway to the Arctic Circle; on that trip, he was thrown from his boat during a storm and woke up to the sound of his own screaming after washing ashore.
told The New York Times Magazine in 2018. “I was infected with a virus.”
In the spring of 2017, he began his third trans-Atlantic crossing — the one that garnered the most media attention — when he paddled out from New Jersey. After clearing Barnegat Bay and heading for the horizon, he was soon a floating blip in the ocean.
told The Times.
But Mr. Doba had tested the limits of possibility during his two previous Atlantic crossings.
In 2010, when he kayaked from Senegal to Brazil, his skin broke out in salt-induced rashes, his fingernails nearly peeled off, and his eyes suffered from conjunctivitis. In 2013, when he paddled from Portugal to Florida, a Greek tanker made the mistake of trying to rescue him.
“Me, fine,” Mr. Doba shouted in English to the ship’s crew, giving a thumbs-up.
They offered to throw him ropes. He refused.
When the ship circled back to him again, Mr. Doba shouted a vulgarity in Polish, and they left for good.
told Canoe & Kayak magazine in 2014. “The whale swam here, and there, all around my kayak. Its 20-meter-long tail was wagging. And then, suddenly, the whale went down and disappeared into the ocean.”
Aleksander Ludwik Doba was born on Sept. 9, 1946, in Swarzedz, Poland. His father, Wincenty, was a mechanic. His mother, Eugenia (Ilijna) Doba, was a homemaker.
He grew up ice skating on ponds and skiing through forests. His father built him a bicycle from scrap parts, and when he was 15 he rode it across the country.
In the early 1970s, Mr. Doba graduated from Poznan University of Technology, where he studied mechanical engineering. He married Gabriela Stucka in 1975, and they settled in a town called Police, where he got a job at a chemical plant. In 1980, his co-workers asked him if he wanted to join their kayaking club, and soon he was spending all his weekends out on the water.
An early escapade involved kayaking on the Baltic Sea at a time when the Communist Party, to discourage defectors, had declared it illegal. When Mr. Doba encountered border patrol soldiers, they told him that he was in serious breach of the law.
“I was just paddling down the river,” he explained. “I don’t know how I ended up here.”
He kept chasing adventure. He explored countless Polish rivers, and he amassed records and firsts.