When not sea kayaking, Paul Caffyn lives on the edge of the Tasman Sea on New Zealand’s West Coast. He works as a coal exploration and mining geologist, a job which takes him deep underground in the local coal mines. Although Paul began canoeing at the tender age of 9 on the Brisbane River, he only took up serious sea kayaking in 1977. In the following 15 years he has notched up over 30,000 miles in his single Eskimo style kayaks. His Australian trip is regarded as one of the great small boat voyages of recent history.
Paul’s first sea kayak expedition was around Fiordland with co-paddler Max Reynolds. From Jacksons Bay, Paul carried on solo to complete the first kayak circumnavigation of the South Island. This trip was the subject of Paul’s first book Obscured by Waves. In 1979 Paul kayaked 1700 miles around the North Island, another first, and completed the trip with a Cook Strait crossing. This trip was the subject of a second book Cresting the Restless Waves. In August 1979, Paul teamed up with Max Reynolds again to cross Foveaux Strait and complete a tough kayak circumnavigation of Stewart Island. Dark Side of the Wave completed Paul’s New Zealand trilogy of his kayak travels around New Zealand.
In 1980 Paul teamed up with an English paddler, Nigel Dennis, to complete the first kayak circumnavigation of Great Britain. This 2,200 mile trip took 85 days.
In December 1981, Paul set out from Queenscliff near Melbourne and spent the next 360 days achieving the first kayak circumnavigation of Australia. This 9,420 mile paddle is acknowledged as one of the most remarkable journeys ever undertaken by kayak. Paul had to contend with a tropical cyclone which nearly swept him off a small offshore islet in the Coral Sea, raging surf, tiger sharks which frequently bumped into the kayak in the Gulf of Carpentaria, crocodiles, sea snakes and three sections of sheer limestone cliffs. To overcome the three 100+mile plus long sections of cliffs, Paul used Nodoz tablets to stay awake and lomotil to keep his bowels dormant during these overnight paddles. The longest stint along the awesome Zuytdorp Cliffs in Western Australia, took 34 hours of continuous paddling. After 10 years of trying to interest a publisher in a book about the Australian trip, in April 1994 Paul finally self-published his story as The Dreamtime Voyage.
In 1985 Paul completed a 4,400 mile 112 day paddle around the four main islands of Japan. With co-paddlers, Paul has twice attempted to kayak across the Tasman Sea from Tasmania to New Zealand but has been thwarted on both occasions by the Tasmanian authorities and bad weather.
In August 1991, Paul paddled into Inuvik, in the North-West Territories of Canada, to complete the first solo kayak trip along the entire coastline of Alaska. Commencing from Prince Rupert in British Columbia, this 4,700 mile trip took three northern summers to complete. Highlights of this trip were: a herd of walrus swimming around the kayak, a large brown bear ripping open Paul’s tent while he was asleep, being charged by a bull musk ox, and meeting the Eskimo villagers who are the descendents of the Inuit people who originally evolved the skin kayaks of the Arctic waters. Paul filmed the 1991 trip from Nome to Inuvik, not easy when paddling solo, and Canterbury Television edited the tapes and some Television News footage of Paul training on the West Coast, into a 30 minute documentary.
In September 1997 Paul, and Wellington paddler Conrad Edwards, completed a 550 mile circumnavigation of New Caledonia. 1998 – 690 mile trip along south-west coast of Greenland, from Kangerslussuaq to Narsarsuaq with Conrad Edwards 1999 – 700 mile paddle along the west coast of Greenland from Kangamiut to Upernarvik, with Conrad Edwards. 2001 -2002: 610 mile trip from Kuala Lumpur, Malaya, to and around the island of Phuket, in Thailand; with Conrad Edwards.
Paul is featured in “This is the Sea 3″.