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"It's been a crazy 13 months, and it's awesome to finally get back here," he said upon his return at a news conference.
It looked like a parade on the water as fire boats, sheriff's deputies and lifeguards escorted the shaggy-haired teen into the harbor after his long journey.
"Words don't really describe how I feel. It's just awesome," said his father Laurence Sunderland.
His family, friends and hundreds of curious onlookers cheered as his $6,000 36-foot boat The Intrepid entered the harbor.
"As of today, he's the youngest person ever to sail around the world by himself," said Charlie Nobles from the American Sailing Association.
Sunderland was 16 when he set off on his adventure on June 14, 2008. He documented his journey on tape and online, sharing his thoughts and fears along the way.
"These three last days have been crazy. I don't know how I'm going to live to see this thing through," he says in one recording on day 4 of his trip. Yet Sunderland survived not only sleep deprivation and loneliness, but also a close call with pirates near Indonesia.
The Sunderland's father met him at various stops on his vonage, often to help him repair his boat.
Sunderland says it's awesome to be home and has some advice for other teens.
"There's so much more potential that people can do with the right motivation and the right ambition in life. So my thing would just be to get out there and do hard things and go for it with all you got," Sunderland said.
And one world record may not be enough for him.
"Now he's talking about climbing Mt. Everest. That kid's amazing," said family friend Rick Meyers.
Aside from Mt. Everest, Sunderland said a trip to the Antarctic may be in his future. He also may have a book on the way, and college may be an option, but the teen said he's not in a rush to do that.
The sailor's family and friends have planned a party to celebrate his return home.
Sunderland's record may not last for long. British sailor Mike Perham, who is just a few months younger than Sunderland, is sailing a bigger, faster boat in an attempt for the record.
The record was previously held by an Australian who was over 18 when he completed the voyage in 1996.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.