Friday, May 17, 2024

Local kayaker crosses Gulf Stream in record time

Boca Raton resident Bruce Gipson achieved a kayaking milestone on Nov. 1 when he and Lee McGregor, who lives in South Africa and part of the year on his sailboat in South Florida, kayaked 54 miles from the Bahamas to Hallandale Beach. Their time: A record-shattering 8 hours and 7 minutes. That’s quite an accomplishment for two people of any age, but it’s especially impressive given these guys are in their 60s.

I asked Gipson to share glimpses of his adventure with Fit Life readers.

Fit Life: What was the most memorable part of your journey?

Gipson: The most memorable part was seeing the South Florida skyline come into view after many hours of just seeing the water and sky on the horizon.

Fit Life: Was this your longest kayaking trip? And is this any kind of record?

Gipson: I set the record 31 years ago, at age 30, for the fastest crossing of the Gulf Stream (Bahamas to Florida) in 11 hours and 46 minutes. Lee and I broke that record doing the same course in 8 hours and 7 minutes. We averaged 7 mph and covered 54 miles.

Fit Life: How did you prepare? Was there ever a time during the journey that you wanted to give up? Tell me about it and what you did to keep going.

Gipson: We both had been training for months for this. I was training daily from Boca to Delray and back, and Lee trained in South Africa, where he still coaches. He is the former Olympic kayak coach. His son Hank is a six-time world champion in marathon (long distance) kayaking. Lee and I won gold medals last year at the Masters World Cup in the double kayak (12 miles). After that, I asked him if he would paddle the double surf ski to attempt a new record from Bimini to South Florida. The key to this was just focusing on the predetermined pace we needed to maintain for our goal. We started at 5 a.m. and reached Hallandale at 1:07 p.m. The heat that day was about 90 degrees—the biggest detriment. But we pretty much hammered the whole way. The last 3.5 miles were the toughest.

Fit Life: What were the weather conditions like?

Gipson: The weather was sunny; light 10 mph, SE breeze; seas 1-2 feet. We had a support boat to hand off liquid when we depleted our supply. We ate nothing; just drank fluids.

Fit Life: What was your biggest challenge?

Gipson: The biggest challenge was waiting for the right day for optimum weather. The prior two weeks we waited [because] we had … stormy weather and high winds.

Fit Life: What satisfies you most about your accomplishment?

Gipson: There was a feeling of accomplishment knowing we were successful at what we set out to do. Lee is 64, and I am 61, so we hope we inspire people to keep healthy and fit. We also raised a few thousand dollars for Wounded Warriors of South Florida. I presented a check to them a few days after coming back.

Lisette Hilton
Lisette Hilton
Lisette Hilton, president of Words Come Alive, has had the luxury of reporting on health, fitness and other hot topics for more than 23 years. The longtime Boca Raton resident, University of Florida graduate and fitness buff writes for local, regional and national publications and websites. Find out more on

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