• 22nd September 2010 - By greg

    Greg 1

    PedalTheOcean.com human powered ocean crossing expedition from Canada to Hawaii is canceled.

    When I conceived of this expedition to cross an ocean by human power 4 years ago, it was my goal to demonstrate to the world, the incredible distances a mere human can travel under his/her own power without the assistance of burning fossil fuels or help from any other energy source such as electricity or wind power (sail). I would be remiss if I did not disclose to you that another important reason for the adventure was a deeply personal one. I wanted a challenge bold enough that would allow me to explore my own limits – both physical and mental. I also wanted to learn something new and experience another great journey, for I really do believe that life is all about the journey and not the destination.

    After an incredible 4 year journey just to get to the start line, which consisted of expedition planning, boat design, boat building and numerous sea trial trips, I have come to the very disappointing conclusion that crossing the Pacific ocean from Canada to Hawaii in my human powered boat WiTHiN, is now outside of my personal risk/reward threshold.

    Rick Willoughby and I designed WiTHiN to be the most efficient vessel capable of crossing an ocean under human power, and I believe that we have succeeded, for I am not aware of any other offshore capable, self supporting human powered boat that is as efficient as WiTHiN in converting human power to forward motion over a very large body of water. Our second goal was to design a boat that was safe, and I also believe that we have achieved this because WiTHiN could roll over a hundred times with me safely sealed-up inside the water-tight cockpit or sleeping cabin.

    Goal 0 Print Ad featuring PedalTheOcean

    Goal 0 Print Ad featuring PedalTheOcean

    I believe that where I have failed, is investing too little consideration for general stability and comfort in moderate to advanced off-shore weather conditions. Because of WiTHiN’s narrow, but slippery beam of only 36 inches, she rolls excessively. After six sea trials trips where I have been repeatedly exposed to 25 to 40 knot winds and seas between 3 to 4 meters, I have discovered that I can barely withstand a few hours of this cruel punishment, whereas I would have to live through days or weeks of bad weather on a 3 month ocean crossing journey. It’s exciting for sure, but just not really very fun.

    I believe that this rolling and sometimes violent bouncing around action adds considerable risk to a long ocean crossing. There were times during sea trials where the water level came close to flooding through open portlights. Late ocean rower Nenad Belic’s row boat was a similar capsule-like design as WiTHiN, and after he disappeared 481 miles off the coast of Ireland, the coast guard found his boat capsized and flooded with the top hatch missing.

    As I have said in a previous blog post – excitement for me is pedaling a human powered vehicle around a 1/4 mile race track non-stop for 24 hours, or running a 100 miles in 30 hours. (I know – danger is my middle name – right?) The idea of spending day after day with a white-knuckled grasp on my seat, throwing up, scared for my life trapped in a coffin sized capsule is just not something I’m interested in experiencing for days on end.

    I would like to extend my sincerest apologies to sponsors, friends, family members and other individuals who have supported my dream by generously contributing their expertise, time, skills, encouragement, and financial / equipment / supplies sponsorship. I feel like I have failed you and I hope to make it up to you someday with some other future human powered adventure.

    My financial contribution to this project was very far beyond what I had originally budgeted, and I am in the position where I need to devote some time now to earning income again. I have thought about putting WiTHiN up for sale, but I doubt she would fetch anywhere close to the amount that I invested into building her. I do believe that her design makes her a viable and capable human powered vessel for certain types of water passages, and I really look forward to more human powered adventures with her in the future – like maybe Vancouver Island circumnavigation record attempt with Bryon, navigating the inside passage to Alaska, or maybe a journey down the Mississippi river. If you have any ideas, let me know.

    Greg 4

    As for future adventures, Helen and I fly to New York state tomorrow to run the Virgil Crest 100 mile ultra marathon on Saturday. Helen is running the 50 miler, and this will be my 3rd attempt to complete a full 100 miles. My first shot at the 100 was last summer’s Sinister 7 ultra where I had to quit after 110 km due to blisters, and my second attempt at the Lost Sole ultra in Lethbridge where I dropped out just short of half-way. You can follow our progress at the web site: http://www.virgilcrestultras.com/ or for live race updates on your mobile device: http://mobile.virgilcrestultras.com/

    After that, we fly to Spain for a cycling vacation and then I’m competing at Ironman St George in May.

    Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.” To me, It’s about your outlook towards life. You can either regret or rejoice – your choice.

    Have a great day,
    Greg Kolodziejzyk

  • 47 Comments to “Pedal the Ocean expedition canceled”

    • Al Krause on September 22, 2010

      You are always a winner in my book Greg. In all truth I would rather not have to white knuckle my office chair while my friend sails off into the sunset.

      I grew up in a small fishing village in Northern California and overlooking the bay full of little boats there is a memorial to those lost at sea. We keep adding names to the plaque, those who went to work fishing and never came home, they left behind wives, lovers, friends and children.
      the ocean has huge power, it is beautiful, it is eternal, it calls to us and it can consume us as well.
      Smart and wise, you are a special guy.
      this is a relief for me.

      looking forward to the next adventure!

      Al Krause

    • Jerry Somdahl on September 22, 2010

      I’m sure this was a difficult decision for you. It has been terrific following the development of the project and I am looking forward to what you come up with next. Go get ’em on the Virgil Crest 100!

    • Andy on September 22, 2010

      Greg, long time reader
      It’s been great following you for these years as you built these boats and tested them. You’ve been an inspiration to me to be a better cyclist and over 2 years I’ve lost 100lbs and finished my first century. I’d just like to say thanks for all the great fun watching you attempt these great challenges and I look forward to watching the next great thing you think up

    • Paul on September 22, 2010

      Hey Greg,
      Sorry to hear about your decision to cancel the PTO project. I am sure we can all understand that at a certain point we have to look at the risks involved and if its worth it.

      I would say that at my point in life now I would not do this, but in my youth, if I had the money, I would have did O.S.T.A.R 🙂 (atlantic sail crossing). Now with a family its just too risky.

      That said, have you thought about seeing if anyone else would like to be the ENGINE for Within for any type ocaean voyage?
      Just a thought . . .


    • Xabier Sanjuan on September 22, 2010

      You are pushing yourself to the limit, aren’t you? What would be to live without doing all what we can reach, when the opportunities are just there to conquer them? Your adventures are magnificent, and what really matters, is the path, the way you had strove to achieve your breakthroughs, your records. So even if you have cancelled this goal –for now- you have made your best effort so far. You have many races to run, many adventures; there are plenty of records to conquer. Keep us posted!

    • Lance Haines on September 22, 2010

      HI Greg,
      When a person like you attempts/achieves things that nobody else has ever done, one has to expect some outcomes like this. Good luck in New York and I look forward to hearing about your next Ultimate challenge.
      Lance Haines

      “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
      ~ Michael Jordan

    • Dr. G. G. Godsman on September 22, 2010

      Well shit, Greg – – – I’ll have to admit that I’m glad to see that you don’t have a “death wish” , after all.

      Good on you for trying though. Better to try and fail than to not even try. Even in failing, you accomplished a helluva LOT. More folks should have you kind of Spirit.

      My respects,
      Dr. G

    • Ken (Builder) on September 22, 2010

      Well Greg I know there is and was a lot of factors playing into this decision for you. If anything happened and we lost you out there you would be so missed. I would always be wondering too if it was something I did or didn’t do that caused the failure of WiTHiN somehow. You are right, the risk/reward scenario just doesn’t add up.

      It’s a great decision for me to see you make for your own reasons! You do have too much to loose…LIFE is and always has been a gift… as I understand.


    • James Lee on September 22, 2010

      Kudos to you for even daring to dream and then following that dream as far as you could. Dying at sea is not success.

      As a paraglider pilot I have to weigh the risk / reward question each time I launch. Walking away from an opportunity to soar is never an easy one. KNOWING that you are alive to answer other opportunities helps to mitigate the sting.

      Keep following your dreams!

    • Michael on September 22, 2010

      Did you consider adding stabilisers of some form? Perhaps add another hull and convert it to a catamaran or trimaran configuration. You’d add weight and probably reduce efficiency but it might be a worthwhile trade-off if you do consider any future ocean-going trips..

    • Rob Gillions on September 22, 2010


      You didn’t and haven’t let anyone down – not us watching, your sponsors, or yourself. If you didn’t try, you wouldn’t know. Now you’ve tried, you do know, and that’s enough.

      Looking forward to your next adventure (when you have time – recharge your batteries for a bit !)

    • Russell Moore on September 22, 2010


      If nothing else, you have gained a lot of knowledge on what does and doesn’t work for ocean going pedal craft. Whether you personally use this information for a future attempt is academic, but others will be able to learn from your endeavours to build better watercraft in the future.

      The news is full of stories of people who have attempted and failed at life threatening adventures, tragically some have given their lives in the process. Here is a real news story that will never make the news, ‘Man aborts ocean crossing after weighing up all the potential risks’. Kudos to you for having the guts to admitting to what others often fail to see, that life is the ultimate adventure.

      I look forward to hearing of all you future exploits.


    • Rod on September 23, 2010

      Mate that was probably the hardest decision you will have to make in a life time.
      You talk of 25-40 knot winds and 3 – 4 meter seas that can be normal weather for weeks on end, when it is double that then you will be in real trouble.
      Just glad you did not turn WiTHiN into a coffin.
      look forward to watching your future exploits


    • sarah on September 23, 2010

      How’s about crossing from the UK to France, Belgium or Holland or the other way round) 🙂

    • Eric on September 23, 2010

      From a sailor and a big fan of “terrestrial” HPVs – You’ve made the right and wise decision.

    • DDeden on September 23, 2010

      I thought a deep keel would be advantageous, like an Orcas’ tall dorsal fin, in rolling surf. OTOH a manatee has no dorsal fin, it half-spins axially when it wants to take a (belly-up) breath in shallow water, so not requiring a calorie/oxygen burning vertical ascent, but manatees live in calm water.

      If I was to take a similar journey, I’d add needle-like pontoons, one in front (of the craft) on left, other in back on right, making a long linear hydrodynamic stable bridge during the day, then unlocking and swiveling them to the sides at night making a wide hydrostatic buoyant platform.

      I’m at Miami Beach, how about bringing Within to the Carribean for some island hopping this winter? 😉

    • Klaas on September 24, 2010

      Thank God You are alive!

      That was my first thought after this long-awaited update.

      You have recognized your limits. You have enough mind to change things in your world you can change and enough mind to accept things can not change. I have a huge respect for you. You can really be proud of yourselv. You are a Hero.


    • Jeff Gille on September 25, 2010


      Awesome job getting to the starting line. Understandable conclusion though, about risk mitigation.

      Couple thoughts,
      1: Boat design looks very interesting, but the roll thing was a foregone conclusion. Did anybody talk about “Outrigger”? Not that you want to open up the whole process again. Basically, you built a really nice floating submarine.
      2: Which brings up an interesting thought. People have been powering themselves around “on top” of the water since, well, we learned how to swim (or not, there’s really short trips every day, straight to the bottom). Currently the “one breath” underwater swimming record is 244 meters. What’s the “one scuba tank of air” record? Swimming on top of the water is boring. People grind across the English Channel all the time. Or lakes, or oceans.
      3: So, ok a guy with fins and a tank. That’s all about the equation of endurance, and training. Some psychology involved. Lets put him in a man-powered underwater mini-sub, one that can replenish the airtanks by a snatch and drop mechanism. That’s underwater Bike design with simple bouyancy compensation, and planing fins. A mini-sub containing atmosphere and ballast tanks would be hugely more complicated, expen$ive, and need very deep pockets. So keep it simple.
      4: What are the numbers? What is the farthest distance a swimmer has traveled underwater – without resurfacing? – I did find a number – 66 miles… (unconfirmed)..

    • Harry on September 26, 2010

      You are alive….
      Who knows, maybe only because you made the right decision.
      Therefore: YOU ARE A WINNER
      And a inspiration for many nameless individuals who was follow you
      But this for sure… for ME you are.
      I can feel with you, because I had to stop my attempt to go around both America’s with a Velomobile this summer (see: http://letsgo-harry.weebly.com ).
      But I also sure you will find a new personal Limit, what you will reach.
      Like me… I search now for a Velomobile I can make my World circumnavigating.
      This time from:
      – North to South (Deadhorse in Alaska to Ushuaia in Terra del Fuego /
      – South to North (South-Cape Africa to North-Cape Europe.)
      Who knows…
      The world is small…
      and we see / meet us somewhere on this planet.
      There is so much to see, explore, learn and be astound…
      …Just ….
      LETS GO

    • Greg Loftus on September 29, 2010

      The hardet part of any venture like this is realizing when to say stop. For the concept and the attempt you deserve all the respect for this. Personally that fact that you have decided it is beyond your boundries at this time deserves as much if not more respect. I followed with interest and had hoped for the best however save in port alive is much better than attempt failsd and dead. You have the concept and perhaps another day with modifactions or a new design, who knows where you will go. Considr a circumnavigation of Great slave Lake or a peddle down the Mackenzie both trips well worth considering Thanks for the efforts and the food for thought your glitches provided. Stay well As ever , Greg

    • Maxwell Wheeler on October 5, 2010

      Dear Greg,
      I am a student in mechanical engineering and have been following your boat build for a long time. I was super excited to see its voyage and am bummed that It has been canceled. Your projects have been a huge inspiration to me and my fellow engineering peers. We look forward to seeing your newest projects and adventures and wish you luck on them all!

      Realizing that you have put a massive effort and financial commitment into the “Within”, have you considered letting another rider take on the challenge? If the boat is sound, sitting and waiting, perhaps a college engineer with a love for human power could take the risk? Granted it would be a much slower voyage than your anticipated goal (I raced mountain bikes for a long time but have been off the circuit for 3 years), but you could still feasibly see your boat accomplish the task it was constructed for. Please email me at mdw62@nau.edu. Even if you are going to retire the boat, I would love to talk with you about some of the design elements and challenges you experienced.
      Thank you and good luck!

    • Todd on October 8, 2010

      Thanks for the update Greg,

      What about the Great Lakes? Might be a good match for the old boat.

    • Oton Barros on October 15, 2010

      ummm… up the Amazon, in Manaus up Rio Negro, Cassiquiare Orinoco and Caribean? Or maybe the other way around? with human powered AC ? 🙂

    • Brandon on October 18, 2010

      Hey Greg,

      We all support your choices. This journy has led to so may succeses even without hitting the open water. I have to say that you have been an insperation to my wife and I in our own project of building a pedal powered boat.

      Keep us updated on any new adventures with Greg!

    • m@t on October 21, 2010

      Glad you plan on living… always the best option when there’s still plenty of miles left on the treads. =)

      Wondering… Do you think dual outriggers (port & starboard) would help your stability? (Maybe with the possibility of either slight height-adjustments or flexible poles to compensate for changing weight load?)

      I realize hull modifications for outriggers would add considerable weight (and drag), but maybe those negatives could be slightly offset by running (matching) driveshafts thru the poles out to each of the outriggers? (so that instead of one prop in the water you have three?) Again, I’m not sure what that would do for you in rough swells, but was just a thought of mine…

    • m@t on October 21, 2010

      While I’m thinking of it, I have an idea I’ve been kicking around for another type of pedal-powered craft… if you’re looking for other ideas. I don’t have the skills or resources to build it right now. Drop me a line via email or FaceBook (link above)…

    • Axel on October 22, 2010

      Hi Greg,

      sorry to read that you had to cancel this adventure. I am sure it was a hard decision, but courage from your side.
      Would a record attempt “Crossing the English Channel” be an idea for you? It is a very popular channel and lots of different world records have been made there, by swimming, or flying etc.
      How about a speed record “human powered” ? It is a short trip so risk is now not to make it.

      I have just finished my fundraising motorbike trip from Edmonton to Cape Town and am keeping an eye out for new ideas too. Miss the journey…

      All the best,

    • ET on October 25, 2010

      As a longtime sales rep for kayaks and equipment (and a paddler and biker) I followed your progress closely. Those guys on Moksha were real trail blazers and inspired us all. You did just fine and standing down when you realize you may have trouble is the first rule in paddling.
      Perhaps marketing your drawings and developing them into plans would be a great way to raise funds for your endeavors. I would be first in line for a purchase.

    • Mark on October 30, 2010

      “It is better to be a humble man than to be a stupid man…”

      Following your gut feeling is always the best way to go, no matter where GPS devices and other modern gadgets may tempt you to go. Canceling a multi-year dream project takes a lot of courage, and demands respect. I know it is met with mine.

      Look forward to where life will bring you next.

      “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”

      Mark, at StayNomad.com

    • Mark on October 30, 2010

      Would adding a gyroscope solve the rolling (and vomiting) issues? No added drag, just added weight. Not sure placement in your craft is possible, but might be worth looking into.

      As for challenges:

      – Distance record attempt on Lake Chad in Africa. The lake is disappearing rapidly. A good way to address this problem, and a hard act to follow, since the lake will be gone soon.
      – The Amazon river from source to Ocean. A serious speed challenge.
      – The good old English Channel, though that is getting a bit old maybe?
      – The Great Lakes in N-America/Canada. How’s that for a challenge?
      – The Ganges river in India. Glaciers in the Himalayas are disappearing due to global warming and the water they provide bring life to millions of people.

      Just a few options of the top of my head. When you like to brainstorm some more, you know where to reach me Greg.

      Happy Travels!
      Mark, at StayNomad.com

    • […] de aandrijvingstechniek  van ingenieur Rick Willoughby. Maar waarom ging die oversteek niet door? Nou, filmpje dan maar. Share […]

    • sly on November 21, 2010

      This was a search fro knowledge and we know a whole lot more after your attempt. Your sponsors should know that we took notice of their help…goal0, mitrpack, Rohmec, RBC, Solid work, and rare method…thank tyou guys to permit such adventures…thank you Greg for trying and please, do continue…the world is watching with great interest.

    • Owen on November 30, 2010

      Enjoyed watching this adventure. I spent many years on the North Atlantic off Nfld and during the winter when the sea dropped to less than 20 feet it looked quite moderate. In one storm I measured an 84 foot wave. The 200 ft long oil rig supply boats look very small in those conditions.
      My taste these days runs to coastal cruising in our 36 foot diesel powered cruiser in good weather and anchoring up in a remote Nfld fjord at night for a BBQ.
      Good decision and good luck in the future.

    • DDeden on December 3, 2010

      “impossible in a kayak or any other kind of human powered boat.
      This is not to say that a trans-oceanic expedition in WiTHiN is out of the question for someone, but it is not for me. Greg Kolodziejzyk”

      The Bering Strait is only a few miles wide, I would love to see Greg challenge a masters-level Inuit kayaker and a Russian hand-pedal boater to a 3 way ‘duel’ to determine the most efficient vehicle and strategy to cross the strait. This would retain the ‘pedal the ocean’ distinction while achieving international awareness to the cause of health.

    • Martin Robichaud on March 31, 2011

      Wow that’s a very nice boat!
      With some modification it can be a very nice boat to cruise the St-Laurent river. I dont know if that possible for you to guide me into the built of a look alike boat that i can use to travel.

      Thank you!

    • zeev on April 11, 2011

      greg i’ve been reading about human powered records , and efficiency records generally (like the shell eco-thon, and solar powered flying –helios–), for years,

      i think you were very wise to quit. while it is obvious that pedal powered kayaks allow a kayaker to outperform all other hand powered kayakers, it is even more obvious that the ocean is not coastal waters or a lake.

      if you ever want to take another go at the ocean, i think you are better off figuring out how to combine wind-solar- and thermal , to power the smallest possible UNmanned vehicle across the ocean as quickly as possible. i think that would be the most interesting challenge regarding the ocean.

      the instant you create the need for life support systems and the capacity to store food/water and/or create new food and water you are talking about something in the cost spectrum of a nasa mars lander project. it’s not really doable by one person.

    • C D Carter on August 13, 2011

      Re cancellation of your sea trip: the reasons you gave make sense and are wholly rational and the respect factor can only increase

      If you’d been lost at sea you’d have been a loss to the world of HPV. You may be aware of the tragic attempt to cross the Tasman Sea by Kayak – it appears nearly to have been a success:


      The sea may always be hazardous for one-manned craft. Maybe the boat design can be used in places that don’t encounter big waves, such as lakes and rivers.

      Full marks for the 24 hour pedalling in that super bike.

    • Grootse plannen | Bootjesgek.nl on October 5, 2011

      […] het grote werk, de oceaan. Hij zit diep bij Gerg, hij probeerde het al eerder, hij moet en zal op koolhydraten de oceaan over.  Hij is kampioen out of the box denken. In zijn ontwerp ziet alleen de cockpit de hemel, de rest […]

    • Mark Eaves on March 22, 2012

      Just because you’ve not gone on does not diminish your accomplishments or character at all. You are a hero for what you’ve done. A life like yours is exceptional intrinsically. I admire you personally even more for your decision not to battle elements that could go beyond your capabilities to overcome and rob us of the wonder of you as a person.

    • Tony on September 11, 2012

      Kudos to you on the 24 hour bike trip. I’ve completed quite a few long distance endurance rides on on a motorbike but to do it on that tiny thing under pedal with limited airflow to cool you…

      Keep it up!

    • Eric on July 10, 2013

      Did you consider adjustable, and or trim- able outriggers? Maybe not the Pacific, But I’d love to tour the Keys or Bahamas in a boat like that! Maybe a sail rig for a back up, in case of injury or emergency…I’m an inspired home kayak builder and cyclist…the smoke is starting to pour out of my ears!

    • jim on March 16, 2014

      Hi GREG,
      what i see is someone admitting and hav the guts to face it to say sorry. Thats the bravest thing to do in life as comparing to proving himself &lost in ego. To me u have won.
      I am deeply inspired by the 2 boats that u hav built and tested. A remarkable achievement. I am inspired to built a similar thing probably use for island hoping camp and short exploration.Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Charles Ruffing on April 24, 2014

      Greg, You have inspired me with your concepts. I live on the Mississippi River and have often thought of sailing from Piasa Harbor all the way to Port Isabel Texas. But I wanted to do it with something like your pedal boat. Your craft is exactly what I have seen in my vision. I would love to learn more about how to make or purchase a craft like you have created. I feel it is a great way to travel and get in shape. Please contact me with any info.
      Best Wishes

    • john irvine on September 13, 2015

      good luck man

      very cool

    • kevin woo on December 22, 2015

      wanna go from sacramento to san francisco? iam

    • Dani Gorgon on January 27, 2016

      Greg, that moment of decision to turn back from achieving your dream – I guess it must had been very tough. But wise decision is better than stupidly planned & executed adventure in open waters. I wait to see your next inspiring adventure.

    • Geoff Kole on August 5, 2016

      Greg human powered boat interest me Because I ride a Rand recumbent vRex
      I think you can do this if you build a better boat

      You should probably have an emergency inflation system similar to how airbags a deployed when you come across inclement weather

      Looks like natives in their canoes some stabilizing pontoons that have the ability to expand to 100 foot beam for example on both sides that can be retracted would help

      You might need a crew of 2 to 4 full-time peddlers

      And what about a boat that doubles as a submarine where you could remain a few feet below the surface of the water when necessary

      Best of luck to you my friend
      Geoff Kole

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