Let Us Now Praise Crazy Mofos

Walking the Seven Seas

Jun 1, 2004
Outside Magazine

Rémy Bricka: Stalking the 7 Seas
RÉMY BRICKA FIRST CROSSED the Atlantic Ocean in 1972, sailing luxury-class aboard France, a 1,035-foot passenger steamer. For his second trip, he decided to walk.

The French-born Bricka, then 38, left the Canary Islands on April 2, 1988, with his feet lashed to a pair of 14-foot fiberglass pontoons. Behind him, he towed a raft outfitted with a coffin-size sleeping compartment and carrying fishing tackle, compass, sextant, and three portable water desalinators. Walking 50 miles a day with a precarious upright rowing technique that made him look like a drunk nordic skier, Bricka aimed for the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, subsisting on fish and plankton he scooped up from drifting schools.

Strange as it seems, given these foolproof preparations, there were problems. Two of Bricka's desalinators bonked halfway through his stroll, so he supplemented his hydration with a daily quart of seawater. Two months in, a Japanese trawler plucked him from the Caribbean near Trinidad. Emaciated and hallucinating ("I saw trolls attack my legs!" he recalls), he'd dwindled from 160 pounds to 110.

The feat—a 3,502-mile hike over open ocean—earned Bricka a Guinness world record but grabbed few headlines in France, where he's famous for another form of performance art. Clad entirely in white, Bricka tours the country with two dozen instruments strapped to his body and a pet dove and rabbit riding shotgun on his shoulders. He's known to one and all as L'homme Orchestre, or the One-Man Band.

So far, the only person to challenge Bricka's water-walking record is Bricka himself. In April 2000, he left Los Angeles, planning to walk the Pacific and arrive in Sydney in time to crash the Summer Olympics. Stoeffler, a French deli-foods company, donated an 11-pound tub of sauerkraut and put up $100,000 for equipment, including freeze-dried meals, an Iridium satellite phone, and a GPS unit.

En route, Bricka ran out of food and his Iridium service shut down. A cyclone packing 50-foot swells thrashed his raft. Using a handheld messaging device, he e-mailed a plea to his wife, in Paris: "Come pick me up now or I'll have to hitchhike."

Ten days later, an American tuna boat found Bricka 500 miles south of Hawaii. He'd failed, but it was a grand failure: The oompah man of the sea had covered 4,847 miles in 153 days.

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