Three months. Two oars. One ocean. That’s the goal of 22-year-old Katie Spotz as she aspires to become the youngest person ever to row across the Atlantic Ocean solo. In addition – and more importantly if you ask her – the 2,473 mile trek is not just for herself. The young Ohio native is doing it all for charity.
Spotz hopes to raise $30,000 in donations for the Blue Planet Run Foundation, an organization that helps impoverished communities find access to clean drinking water. “This row is called Row for Water, and my goal is to help a thousand people gain access to safe drinking water for life.” Spotz told NPR. “A billion people don’t even have access to this most basic human need. So I’m really passionate about being able to challenge myself and then raise awareness and funds for a good cause.”
When asked about the Africa to South America row, Spotz acknowledged it would be no small feat. “This is definitely my biggest challenge.” But, small doesn’t seem to be her style.
Spotz already has a long list of notable accomplishments – ones that most people would be content with completing just one. At age 18, she ran her first marathon. She has also cycled 3,300 miles across the United States from Seattle to D.C., averaging 85 miles a day for forty days; run 150 miles across the Mojave Desert, placed first in age group for a half-ironman (1.2 mi swim, 56 mi bike, 13.1 mi run) and completed a 62-mile ultra marathon in Australia.
Most recently, Spotz became first person to swim the entire length of 325 mile Allegheny River, averaging 12-15 miles a day, with the longest distance swimming 22 miles in a day.
To prepare for her current journey (which she left on 15 days ago), Spotz attended a 10-day retreat where she meditated 12 hours each day, she met with a sports psychologist regularly, and she consulted with numerous rowing experts on technique, preparedness, safety and endurance. But her biggest factor in getting ready to row 30 miles a day doesn’t come from physical fitness as most people would expect. It comes from mental toughness.
“There comes a point where no matter how physically fit you are, you do break down,” Spotz said. “You’re sore, you’re fatigued, you’re exhausted, and there needs to be something more that keeps you going. I find that’s what drives me and keeps me coming back for more – understanding it’s really more of a mental challenge than anything.”
And the challenges just keep coming. In fact, the idea to row for charity was not a lifelong dream – it came about randomly on day when she was on a bus in Australia chatting with the person next to her who mentioned that their friend rowed across the Atlantic twice. “So, ever since I learned about it, it’s just been stuck in my head,” Spotz said.
Understandably, Spotz’s parents weren’t entirely enthusiastic about their daughter’s latest endeavor at first. But over time, and much discussion, they have become a supporter. Especially because Katie will have constant contact with the outside world if necessary and she will be blogging along the way on her website, rowforwater.com.
Besides, with a spirit like hers, completing these amazing challenges is just part of who she is. And, not surprisingly, Spotz is already cooking up plans for her next adventure when she returns from her three-month row – though she isn’t hinting about what it will be.
“I’m sure I’ll find something else,” Spotz said, grinning.