Pure Heroes: Jaco Benckhuijsen

Jaco Benckhuijsen, sea kayaker, musician, writer, photographer and above all, adventurer

Photo: Henrik Carlsen

Jaco Benckhuijsen (1965) blindly knows his way around the ocean. With his folding kayak he sailed solo for weeks with minimal resources along the frayed edges of the world. Along inhospitable coastal strips from the Aleutian Islands near Alaska, tropical Papua New Guinea to the southernmost tip of Argentina, Tierra del Fuego. He wrote a book about it, Man in the Wild (De Geus, 2019) and released an album of the same name (2021).

He then explored the raw Greenland and the unknown Mauritania. In the summer of 2022 he stayed closer to home; he rediscovered the Dutch coastline while paddling, 415 kilometers between Antwerp and Delfzijl.

Travel more sustainably

As a person, Jaco has changed through his special travels. “I have started to live more consciously and realize that we need less in the West than we sometimes think. I would like to travel even more sustainably, by taking the train more often. Can you travel to Africa by train? Can I take a sailboat to Oceania? I must try. Fortunately, I compensate for long journeys with my ecological footprint.”

Photo: Jaco Benckhuijsen, Tierra del Fuego

Jaco-Benckhuijsen-Iceland

Contrast

The adventurer has been kayaking since childhood. Jaco grew up in Boskoop and was a real outdoor child. There was also that other passion: music. His hectic life as a professional musician meant that he increasingly felt the need to look for contrast in the tranquil nature. “At first I went out with friends, but soon I left alone. I went on more and more extreme trips; to Norway, Scotland and by sleigh and cross-country skiing through Greenland. That gave a free and intense feeling.”

Fully autonomous

When Jaco discovered the existence of a folding kayak in 2009, he quickly took it on a trip. He says he was made for the water and feels completely autonomous in his wandering existence, although the line between surviving and challenging himself physically and mentally is sometimes rather thin. He learned a lot from loneliness. And he asks himself more and more questions: such as how the inhabitants of the islands and coasts are doing, who are increasingly disappearing into the sea due to climate change.

Jaco-Benckhuijsen-Nikolski-Tanya-Kyle
Photo: Tanya Kyle

Books and movie concerts

Jaco has been sharing and recording his experiences on images, in writing and in music for several years now. He also gives lectures and his second book is in the making. He also gives film concerts (April 2 at the Beauforthuis and July 22 at Wonderfeel Festival with percussionist Joost Lijbaart. With his work he hopes to take people along on his wilderness adventures and show them how important it is that we continue to cherish the nature and populations that live at the end of the world. | Maninhetwild.nl

“It is a mental challenge that you persevere when the going gets tough. That you are self-reliant when you brave the wilderness”

Photo: Jean Didier, Tierra del Fuego

Text: Angelique van Os

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