When the team woke up, excitement and apprehension were thick in the air. The distance to our finishing point was a comparatively short 15km (less than half of what we would do on a regular day), but the forecast showed very challenging conditions for the last 9km as we would round the southernmost cape and make our way North to Matala. Whether or not it was even possible depended on a few degrees of difference in wind direction that the forecast could not show.
The first stretch of paddling was blissful; a stiff tailwind pushed the team along and we found a cavernous sea cave. As the cape came into view it became obvious that we were in for a beating, or as CP put it “a good smack.” The wind slammed into our faces and the swell quickly built to over 6ft; the largest waves around 10ft. After 10 minutes of paddling into it, we realized that turning back would be riskier than pushing on, so we lowered our shoulders into the gale and charged into the whitecaps. There was a small protected beach not far along the coast that we know well, but conditions like that make a trial out of any distance.
The team stayed tight and took the blows with skill, determination, and even a few whoops of excitement. We pulled into the protection of Vathi Beach unscathed but exhausted.
Unsure of whether or not to continue, we hiked up to the top of a nearby ridge to scope out the next stretch of sea. The wind and waves showed no sign of abating, but the forecast hinted at it mellowing out in the late afternoon. Ultimately the allure of the finish being so close got the better of us and we got back in the boats and plunged back into the fray. Another hour of paddling brought us to Red Beach (one of our favorites and most familiar beaches on the island) and while the waves were smaller, the wind was still ferocious. With sunset approaching fast, the team decided that the final 2km was too treacherous to attempt and spent a final night on the beach, eating the last of our food. The wind howled all night, blasting one last, thick coating of sand into every nook and cranny of our equipment until 5am when it finally died.
The next morning, everyone was eager to get on the water. We’d finished off our fuel the night before, but we knew hot coffee, breakfast, and the finish line was waiting for is just around the cape in Matala. We paddled the last stretch slowly in calm conditions, sharing unbelieving smiles before pulling up onto the unpopulated beach at 8:30am; the same spot that we’d taken off from, a short yet immense 30 days ago.
We had breakfast and shared a few favorite memories but mostly spent the day coming to terms with the feeling of accomplishment. Personally, I had trouble deciding how to spend all the free hours of the day.
30 days on the water. So many lessons learned. As with any adventure, I came away with far more than I could have ever expected and while we aren’t paddling any more, the experience will linger offering more insights with every reminiscence.
Thank you to those who have helped make this experience possible and also all of you who’ve followed along. Stay tuned for some additional stories about the trip!