It was July 2nd 2015, two days before Americas big July 4th celebrations. 

I was in Darien, Connecticut with my wife as she spent the first 8 years of her life there, so we wanted to check it all out. We were staying with a family called the Gallaghers in there beautiful 8 bedroom, 10 bathroom all Connecticut style home on the river. They were hosting a BBQ with their friends and introducing us Australians. 

I found myself in a conversation with a passionate sailor and begun to tell him of my plan to circumnavigate around Manhattan Island tomorrow morning on my surf ski. He laughed and said "you must be kidding", he proceeded to say "have you heard about Hells Gate, where the East River, Hudson River and the Ocean from the South all meet and a whirlpool is formed with many sailing boats have capsized and people have died". I replied "yeah I have heard of the whirlpool" and tried to change the subject. As this Americans voice grew louder, more people came into the conversion and I was told, demanded to not do the paddle. At this stage my wife who was 6 months pregnant also said the paddle is now off. 

We went to bed and at 3am I snuck out of the house, jumped in the hire car with the surf ski on top and drive fast down the i95 highway to New York. As I drove the rain turned into torrential rain and I did have moments of turning back. I kept on driving and reached pier 47 on the Hudson river. 

Roughly 2 months before this paddle I found a man on the internet who had written a PHD on how the ocean from the South, with the Hudson from North and the East River from the East creates a whirlpool movement around Manhattan Island and if you can time the tide right, you get a free ride. The only problem was this whirlpool lasts for 6 hours and I had planned to paddle the 48km in low 4 hours. This meant that there would be a section where I would be paddling against the tide. We calculated that this would occur on the East river from the United Nations building down to Battery Point (7km) and then I would turn right and come up the Hudson with the tide with me. 

Around 6am on July 3rd I started paddling North up the Hudson, under the George Washington Bridge and feeling like the hardest part of just getting there was behind me. I turned right and heading down through Harlem, the water was brown and dirty and it felt like dead bodies surrounded the sea floor below me. I paddled past a gang of African American males who were gathered on the shoreline still partying from the night before and gold chains and what I believed hand guns in the back of their jeans. One of them called out "hey white guy, you most be lost", I nodded with a scared smile and paddled as fast as I could, with them all laughing at me in the distance. I had made it clear of them and paddled past Yankee stadium and now down to the East river. 



Paddling around New York is a buzz, the loud noice of the cars honking their horns, the helicopters landing on rooftop buildings and JFK airport sending planes off every 2 mins was exhilarating.

As I was approaching the United Nations building I could see a black helicopter landing with four NYPD Police boats on the water and a convey of police vehicles next to the helipad ready to take an important person. With July 4th the next day, it must have been Barack Obama. 

As I intended to paddle past the four NYPD Police boats the sirens came on and I was directed to stop and paddle to their boat. They ordered me to get off my surf ski and board their vessel. I did, and I received one hell of a lecture. 

The Police asked me to paddle to shore and go home, at this point I showed them my GPS watch which had over 30km on it and that my car was on pier 47 and it would be quicker to paddle around then to walk my surf ski through downtown New York. "This crazy Aussie has a point" the female police officer said, well "Luke, get back on your surf ski and we will escort you around Battery Point and guide you to the Hudson." There I was surf skiing behind an NYPD Police boat with sirens on, as I went past Battery Point with people on the Staten Island ferry  cheering me on. 

We reached the Hudson River and I was on the final stretch, the wind and tide was now behind me and I was on runners, surfing up the Hudson River to Pier 47. 

After an eventful morning, I got in the car and drove back to Connecticut. I arrived back at lunchtime and the whole Gallagher family including my wife was sitting at the main table waiting for my return. As I walked in I received a big cheer, more of a relief that I had made it, then Mr Gallagher came up and shook my hand and said "you still are a bloody idiot", I smiled, still stoked that I pulled off this incredible paddle. 

Back to blog