I met Abraham Levy in the back of the bus heading to a sponsored fiesta during the ATMEX conference held in Veracruz. After a week of discovery and learning many new things about Veracruz, I was looking forward to a few drinks and celebrating my last night. But on the ride through the city streets, I started to ease drop in on a story about a kayak encounter with a whale. Fascinated, I started to ask questions (in broken Spanish and English) and he kept sharing details about his incredible adventure.
Abraham paddled a kayak down the entire coastline of Mexico. Both the Gulf and the Pacific sides. He paddled it all; every inch.
The next day he was speaking at the ATMEX conference, but I’d miss it. So when we arrived at the fiesta, I asked for his card and the chance to interview him. I wanted (and needed) to find out more about his story. To discover what inspired him, to be inspired by what he discovered, and learn more about his adventurous life. Thankfully I did. Here goes:
Interview with Abraham Levy
Craig: 1) Ok, so where did you get the idea to kayak Mexico’s complete coastline? And how long did you have such a dream before you made it a reality?
Abraham: The idea was sown into to my heart many years ago when I was just a child camping with family in Cacaluta, a paradise located in Oaxaca México. Cacaluta has two beaches, a big bay with an island at swimming distance and coral reef to snorkel or free dive. You get there with backpacks walking through the rainforest. I felt like Crusoe. And we were the only people there. It was so amazing that I wondered how many beaches like this I could found on the entire coastline. I decided I wanted to discover every one.
Twenty years later I heard about a kayak trip in the Caribbean and the idea reappeared in my mind. Ah, in a kayak! That’s the way I could discover every beach. And I could smell it, feel it, and enjoy it all at a manageable pace.
Then, I spent seven years planning until I finally departed for the most special trip of my life.
2) Wow, so much went into the dream. Tell us your route and how many days you spent in a kayak?
I started at the US border where the Bravo River (Rio Grande) encounters the Gulf of México and I headed out south to Hondo river on the Belize border. From there I took a flight to Tijuana and continue paddling from just where the border fence meets the water and headed down to Los Cabos. The I paddled all the way up to San Felipe in the Sea of Cortés then back down to Chiapas until I the fresh water of the Suchiate river touched the hull of my kayak. There I completed my dream. It took me thirteen months.
3) Wow, that is a long time in a kayak? Many people would consider that quite adventurous, but do you consider yourself adventurous?
For sure, life is an adventure and I love to live it that way. I am exiting my comfort zone every time I can. Challenges are a tribute to life. They make us give the best of ourselves and push our senses to the maximum cause we don’t´ know what we will encounter next.
4) I love that mindset. That’s adventurous. Ok, now tell us about your favorite stretches? It is no secret Mexico has beautiful coastlines, where do you think people must visit, see?
It’s so huge, there is a beach for every taste. A beach can be found for surf lovers, kite boarders, divers, kayakers, party searchers, culture lovers, with jungle or desert, developed or completely empty.
I loved to paddle in the turquoise colored Caribbean waters over the Mesoamerican reef and just in front of Totonaca ruins in Veracruz. I also loved the Los Tuxtlas region where rivers just born from the San Martin Volcano melt with the salt water next to caves of volcanic stone where it´s supposed that Lorencillo Pirate hide his treasure too.
Also, I´ll never stop navigating the waters of Pacific in Baja with it´s big swells and walls of rock along the coastline. I loved searching beaches and islands to find solitude, calm and peace with nights looking at the stars in over the Sea of Cortes.
Finally, I loved the diversity of cultures in Oaxaca where in just a ten of miles people have completely different languages, costumes and ways to see the life. And each one with their own music and dances, a lots of estuaries and the most amazing bioluminescence I have ever seen in my life in Manialtepec Lagoon near Puerto Escondido.
I´m sure I´ll never end talking about amazing places along Mexican coastline as my sister says when she saw my video diaries “you said that you could stay forever in every place you stopped. ”
5) Wow, sounds incredible. I am also sure you saw incredible wildlife on your journey, I even heard a story about a close encounter with a grey whale? Tell us what happened and if were you scared?
Well I really don’t speak whale I don’t know what the mammal was trying to say, maybe “hello what´s up?” or maybe “get out of here, what are you looking at?”
I was paddling in a strong wind and swell on my way to Cabo when I appeared to stumble upon a whale party. Suddenly there were many whales making an spyhop at the same time; it was an amazing gift to be there enjoying the dance.
I stopped to take pictures and when I was putting my self in a better position a giant gray whale appeared beside me at a vertical half rise. It was so close that I could prick his eye. We made eye contact and I noticed surprise expression followed by a quick back move and a crashing. The camera fell in the water and my first thought was about Moby-Dick and that I have to paddle as hard as I can to reach my next camping spot.
Finally safe on the beach looking at the sea I was wondering if I dream it but a 20 inch hole in the hull with barnacles gave me the answer, it really happened!
I had some help with a pick up that took me to Todos Santos where surfer and board-shaper Tommy Lewis (RIP) offered to repair the kayak. A special thanks for that!
6) Seems a little dangerous, and actually many people are scared of Mexico in general. And since you traveled all of its coasts camping on the beach at night, what do you believe after your experience?
Like in any other place you have to take your precautions I’m always alert and I manage a low profile. I spent thirteen months camping every night in a different place but I just found amazing people that made me feel very welcome. They shared their table and heart with me. And let me tell you I don’t look much different than you, everybody thought I was a gringo.
Many people are scared to live, but life has it’s risks and I choose to live it. Let’s be honest there is no safe place anywhere. So please don’t believe everything that sensationalist media tolls you discrediting my country outsider’s image. Come here and explore.
A gringo like me, pero no puedo hablar español…tu esapñol es mucho mejor….
jajaja. tu puedes hablar bien.
7) Bien, well, not too bien. And people who know me or read this site, no I agree, Mexico is a wonderful place to visit. I do visit and explore.
But, ok, I have another question on logistics? They must have been coordinated pretty well, between communications, food, supplies or even fatigue. Any surprises or funny stories?
Plenty of stories. I almost ran out of water in the middle of Vizcaino Desert Natural Reserve as bad weather trapped me for 5 more days along Baja. Then, like sent from heaven, a Unimog all terrain vehicle armed with 1,300 liters of drinking water in a place with no roads appeared in front of me when I was decide walking across the sierra to find the town.
Another time a crocodile four meters long jumped with the jaw open next to my kayak in La Encrucijada natural reserve (Chiapas) near the end of my journey. And I spent a night camping on a platform two meters above water level I made myself with paddles and sticks in the mangroves to avoid them.
I have, 6,800 nautical miles of stories.
8 ) I am sure you do. From all your stories, what do you want people to take away from your journey? Should we all ocean kayak? Follow a dream? What do you hope to inspire?
My grand father once wrote “each of us has all we need, the great strength of ourselves.” I say we must assume our own responsibility. You’re the only one responsible for your success or failure. I think the best thing you could do for others is do it for yourself.
I was trying to speak to my sister once, telling her that she could do whatever she dreams, but the fact was that I didn’t have at that time the moral authority to say so. Then when I came back to Mexico City after paddling my dream, at the end of the press conference she took the microphone and said, “brother, thanks for inspiring us all.”
Those words are the best that anyone can ever say to me. Love you sis.
9) Wow, this is definitely an inspiring story and I know there is more. Once you have an adventure there is always another one planned? Tell us what you are doing next.
Great maritime adventurers captivate me, so I plan to follow the routes of Colon (Columbus) and Cortes and row from Spain to Mexico in a 4,900 nautical mile solo crossing. It’ll take me about 5 months and I am departing 12th of October 2013. You would be able to follow the expedition on web, this time in English too.
10) Wow, paddling across the Atlantic. That certainly is staying adventurous. I’ll be following. And thanks again for all your time. For people who want more information where can they find you?
I have my website for gearing up for the next journey at www.abrahamlevy.com, Stay tuned as it gets updated.
stay adventurous, Craig