Erden Eruç: First solo circumnavigation of the globe using human power

Among other amazing feats, the prolific adventurer Erden Eruç completed the longest solo row across an ocean EVER, as well as the first ever circumnavigation across the globe using solely human-powered methods

But who is Erden Eruç, and what is the secret behind his thirst for adventure, nature and freedom?

The Beginning

Now 62 years of age, Erden Eruç was born in Nicosia, Cyprus on 14 July 1961.

He was then raised in Türkiye, where he caught the adventure bug and grew up to be an avid outdoorsman and thrill seeker.

That's where his thirst for adventure and wildlife began, surrounded by the beauties of his native Türkiye and encouraged by his family's support: when he was only 11, his father took him on a climbing trip to Mount Erciyes. Standing at an impressive summit of 3,916 m (12,848 ft), the stratovolcano is registered as the highest mountain in central Anatolia.

After that first adventure alongside his father, Erden continued to nurture his passion for climbing - adding that to many other outdoor activities, from kayaking to cycling. 

At the same time, Eruç carried on his with studies: he first enrolled at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul, where he studied mechanical engineering and earned both a Bachelor of Science degree and a Master of Science. 

Eruç then decided to move to the United States, where he continued his studies at Ohio State University and earned an MBA degree at George Mason University.

All the while he continued to kindle his passion for exploration, constantly caught between sea and land, seeking new thrills and new places to discover. 

In 2014, after completing the first-ever circumnavigation of the globe by human power, Eruç set his eye on another awe-inspiring, wonderful challenge: conquering all Seven Summits, the highest peaks on each of the seven continents. 

The task required a combination of mountaineering skills, physical endurance, and mental fortitude – all characteristics that Eruç has in spades.

By successfully completing this feat, he earned his place next to other elite mountaineers such as Nirmal Purja, who smashed the record for the fastest time to climb all mountains over 8,000 m, completing the challenge in the incredible time of 6 months and 6 days.

Among other records, Nirmal also earned international fame for the fastest time to climb the top five 8,000ers: it took the mountaineering star a total of only 70 days. in a climbing marathon that spanned between May and July 2019.

While trying to conquer all the highest mountains in the world, Eruç also returned to his beloved ocean.

A globetrotter and adventurer at heart, he soon embarked on many adventures that would earn him a well-deserved place among history-maker adventurers... and record breakers!

Read more about Nirmal Purja and his incredible Guinness World Records titles.

Erden with his boat during the attempt

The Records

Eruç conquered his very first world record when he became the first person to row across the entire Indian Ocean from mainland Australia to mainland Africa, in 2010. However, his name as an adventurer rose to prominence with his extraordinary endeavour to circumnavigate the world using only human-powered transportation.
His ambitious journey, which requires plenty of mental fortitude and physical preparation, commenced on 10 July 2007. It would take Eruç a total of five long, back-breaking years to complete this journey. 
Eventually however, after crossing many countries and facing plenty of perils, in July 2012 Eruç finally reached the shores of Bodega Bay, California, and achieved the fastest circumnavigation of the globe by human power (individual). 
Later on, the adventurer confessed that he took on the challenge to “keep himself mentally acute, managing discomfort.”
With a total of 5 years 11 days 12 hrs and 22 min, Eruç rowed across oceans, pedalled his bicycle across continents, and trekked through some of the most remote terrains on Earth.
And (perhaps even more amazingly) he did it all solo, using uniquely the power of his body and the resilience of his mind.
His monumental, one-of-a-kind journey started and ended from pier to pier at Bodega Bay, California, USA. 
That was also the very first time such a feat was attempted at all, marking a never-tried-before achievement.
With his historical first, venturing where no one else had dared before, Eruç became the first man to circumnavigate the globe solo using human power. Among other adventures, he cycled across Africa, used canoes to cross rivers and, then, rented a bike from a local cycling team in Venezuela. 
For a long time, he had to leave behind that modern-day comforts we all take for granted: he slept under the stars when there were no places to stop for the night, cycled on the sand when there were no roads, drank and ate what he could find.
He always powered through, crossing wild lands and hopping back on his beloved boat Calderdale for the last leg of his journey. 
Through three continents and with 5 years 11 days 12 hrs 22 min of journeying, Eruç truly rewrote the history of human-powered adventures and expeditions, proving that nothing is impossible.
“I’m not trying to conquer nature; I’m trying to be in harmony with it. I’m trying to become the sea,” he said.

However, over time, Eruç established himself as a prolific record holder and, once again proving that the only limit to record breaking adventures is imagination, he embarked in many never-tried-before challenges. 

Some of his other records are:

  • He is the first person to row across the entire Indian Ocean from mainland Australia to mainland Africa, rowing across the ocean between 13 July 2010 and 20 April 2011.
  • Farthest distance rowed in the Atlantic non-stop (solo), rowing non-stop from 10 October 2011 to 11 March 2012, crossing the Atlantic Ocean solo for a distance of 9,314 km (5,787 miles; 5,029 nautical miles)
  • First non-stop row across the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, which was achieved from Carupano, Venezuela to Cameron, Louisiana, USA, between 22 March and 27 May 2012.

Erden circumnavigating by rowing

Most days at sea

In 2022, Eruç went on to break yet another incredible stack of records.

As officialised by Guinness World Records in March 2022, he spent more time at sea than any other adventurer, breaking the record for the most days at sea by an ocean rower

He ammassed an incredible 1167 days in the timeframe between November 2005 and March 2022 aboard his boat, the Calderdale: that's the equivalent of 38 months, a little over 3 years.

That set a new milestone for the overall record, but it’s also the most days at sea by a male ocean rower (solo).

Throughout his adventures, Erden also accumulated an incredible amount of nautical miles. 

Years of rowing earned him the record for the greatest cumulative distance rowed on the ocean by an individual, achieving an incredible 29,685 nautical miles (54,976 km; 34,160 mi). That's an outstanding distance that roughly equals half the width of the English Channel.

The record was achieved between January 2006 and March 2022.

"I’m not trying to conquer nature; I’m trying to be in harmony with it. I’m trying to become the sea."

– Erden Eruç 


A higher purpose

Beyond his many personal triumphs, Eruç's pursuits have been driven by a profound sense of purpose, and his noble intention to give back to charities has often fuelled his expeditions. 
Throughout his many adventures, he has been actively involved in promoting environmental sustainability and advocating for ocean protection.
His passion for raising awareness about climate change, and cherishing and preserving our planet, shines through in all his records: he often picks only sustainable ways of transportation.
In December 2002, he also established the Around-n-Over charity: a nonprofit organization that encourages human-powered expeditions. 
The aim is to raise awareness, inspire and teach future generations the importance of nurturing our planet, as well as transmitting the value of selflesness. 
Among other things, it assists poor communities in the journey to self-sufficiency, "providing basic educational aid and resources, know-how and facilities."
The organization also honours his friend and fellow mountaineer Göran Kropp (Sweden) who passed away in a tragic incident while climbing with Eruç in September 2002.
The two were climbing in Vantage, Washington.

Erden has established himself as one of the most prolific adventurers and record-breakers in the world. 

His call to be adventurous, as well as his continued advocacy against the exploitation of the environment, raising awareness on the pressing threat of climate change and environmental disasters carries worldwide importance and continues to inspire future generations.

The tales of his circumnavigation and his extraordinary achievements have inspired countless individuals to chase their dreams fearlessly – and he continues to dream big, striving for new goals while making a positive impact and honouring the memory of fellow adventurers who sadly passed away during their expeditions.

We eagerly await the next chapter in Erden's thrill-seeking journey, knowing that he will continue to push the boundaries and strive to find new adventures.

In 2003, during a bicycle trip to Alaska where he aimed to climb Mount McKinley, Eruç married human-resources executive Nancy Board. She would later support him in his record-breaking expeditions.
The two tied the knot in a native Alaskan Haida-Tsimshian ceremony.

Erden with GWR editor-in-chief Craig Glenday

Find out more about Erden's amazing records in Guinness World Records 2024, available from September 2023 in store and online.