Franz Romer wasn’t much of a talker. It was 1928 and the 29-year-old German man had just completed a 58-day solo crossing of the Atlantic in a kayak that looked a bit like a sailing canoe. His landing in the U.S. Virgin Islands was uneventful, but as word got out of his accomplishment, people clamored to celebrate him. It was the longest and most dangerous leg of his journey that had begun in Lisbon, Portugal. You’d think he’d be in want of human connection, but beyond general pleasantries, Romer proved to not be much of a storyteller.
Even for a boy who grew up enamored of the sea, the crossing must have been brutal. It wasn’t even his idea to begin with. Though a merchant seaman and licensed navigator, Romer was also an aviator. It was the mid-1920s and he concocted an audacious goal. He wanted to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, from Germany to New York. It’s not clear if he couldn’t round up the sponsors, or if Charles Lindbergh’s 1927 flight beat him to the punch. But riffing from the trans-Atlantic mania, Klepper Kayaks made Romer an alternate proposal: be the first person on record to kayak solo from Europe to the Americas.